At the last University of Minnesota (UMN) Board of Regents meeting, I tweeted the concerns that regent Laura Brod expressed with the U’s move to give in-state tuition rates to unauthorized immigrant students who live in Minnesota.
The state Legislature had set that tuition change in motion this spring when it passed the so-called “Minnesota Dream Act,” also known as the Minnesota Prosperity Act. It gave students resident status for purposes of tuition and financial aid.
At the time, the legislation’s fiscal note estimated that the U would lose about $175,000 a year because of the lower tuition. But the U had indicated it could handle the hit.
At the regents meeting, Brod said the U would be granting in-state tuition to students who are not authorized to live in the country, but not granting in-state tuition to those who are here legally.
She questioned the fairness of the proposal, saying it forced some students to subsidize the lower tuition of others:
“The difficulty I have is relative to who pays for the buy-down on the tuition. … The $175,000 is bought down by somebody to get them to the in-state tuition. And the way I see the dollars working — and maybe there’s something else out there working — they’re coming from the general fund, which means that they’re coming from state dollars and tuition dollars.
So I worry a little bit about the necessity, then, for other students to buy down the tuition for a specific group of students — whether it’s this group of students or whether it’s another group of students. And just that philosophy of students buying down students bothers me. … It’s not just specific to this specific issue, it’s broader.”
Regent Patricia Simmons responded that the U already charges students different levels of tuition, and that the Dream Act students would just become part of that system.
The tuition proposal passed, but both Brod and regent John Frobenius voted against it.