More dollars for diplomas

The University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities will both raise tuition rates in the fall, reports MPR. The U of M currently plans a 7.5 percent hike, but that could increase if the legislature cuts funding. MNSCU is planning a five percent increase, but that, too, could change if the legislature cuts more than $10 million from the $615 million MNSCU budget. State Senator Sandy Pappas, chair of the higher education committee, is not optimistic:

“It could be $10 million, it could be $20 million, it could be $50 million; it’ll be probably under $60 million,” Pappas said. “I hope it won’t go that high.”

Pappas said tuition increases are likely as colleges deal with budget cuts. Pappas also expects reductions in financial aid the state hands out to needy students.

Students at the U of M may pay even more, as ever-growing numbers take more than four years to complete a degree. The Star Tribune reports that, despite improvement since 1995:

The latest numbers show that undergrads who started in 2004 at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus have a four-year graduation rate of 45.2 percent — much better, but still at the bottom compared with similar universities.

\One of the ways that the U of M has improved graduation rates from about 25 percent in 1995 to today’s 45 percent is by changing the profile of the students it admits. Today’s entering class has higher ACT scores than previous years. That, however, poses a different kind of problem, according to Michael McPherson, co-author of the new book, Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities:

“The easy way to improve graduation rates is to get rid of the students who might struggle,” said McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation and former president of Macalester College in St. Paul “But that’s not much of an achievement. It comes down to this: Are we educating better students? Or educating students better?”

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