ArticlePage address: http://www.mnsu.edu/mssa/news/html/openforumresponse.html
Students Put Administration on the Spot
Tuition, use of fees dominate discussion at MSSA-sponsored open forum.
by Rachel Heiderscheidt
Issue date: 2/6/07 Section: Campus News
Media Credit: Raymond Starin
MSU student Michael Norton
questions Vice President of
Finance and Administration
Rick Straka at the
MSSA-sponsored open forum
on tuition and fees outside
the Heritage Room Monday.
The Minnesota State Student Association held an open forum on student tuition and fees in the CSU Monday. A panel consisting of MSSA President Gabe Afolayan and Vice President Chris Frederick, in conjunction with President Richard Davenport, Vice President for Finance and Administration Rick Straka, and MSU Reporter Editor in Chief Andrew Miller, invited the student body to come forward with questions regarding both topics along with many others.
The forum began with Davenport saying, "The biggest issue in higher education across this country is tuition."
He added that the university has never seen tuition rates as high as they have been in the past five years. He then said the reason for the forum was to discuss why tuition is important and both the states' and the students' role in tuition costs.
Afolayan read a written question submitted by a student pertaining to the differences between what tuition pays for versus what student fees pay for. Straka also answered this question saying that tuition covers basic university needs such as administration and student life, whereas student fees pay for what they are named for, such as parking, technology and health services.
Casey Carmody, a student senator and senior political science major, asked what actions the university is taking to get the percentage ratio of state paid tuition to the rate paid by students back to 67/33 from where it is currently at, which is closer to 50/50.
Straka answered, "The state statute has changed so there is no longer a tie between student growth and appropriation…we're looking at 53 percent appropriation and 47 percent tuition," Straka said. "It would take significant effort to get that back to 67/33."
Davenport also added that state funding should reflect enrollment, meaning that larger universities should get "a bigger piece of the pie," but currently do not.
Afolayan then asked what the major attributing factors are that cause an increase in tuition.
Straka responded, saying, "The main factor is a lack of state support." He added that the increases are not a result of overspending and that Minnesota State has only increased its spending by two percent each year in comparison to tuition increases.
Another student asked, "How much will tuition be going up within the next few years?"
"We don't know," Davenport said. "But I can tell you that just to keep up with inflation alone we need to increase tuition by four percent each year."
He added that although the new Minnesota legislators agree with lowering tuition costs for students, they need to get approval from the House and Senate in order for any action to be taken. Straka added that the administration is hoping to see support from legislatures for a tuition freeze.
Afolayan then invited Scott Olson, Vice President of Academic Affairs, to speak about the tangible effects of staggering tuition costs.
"Since President Davenport has arrived, we've had to cut about 50 programs at the graduate level," Olson said.
He added that since the university had to cut certain programs, they are striving to invest in worthwhile endeavors at the graduate level.
Michael Norton, a senior economics major, posed the question of what the university is doing to "push students out in four years." Norton argued the fifth year of college is more expensive than all four previous years combined when a year's worth of lost wages are factored into the equation. Most students, however, cannot afford to take a full credit load without working part-time in order to pay increasing tuition costs and therefore aiding the tuition issues.
In response, Olson said that the university is trying to "hold the line" on credit growth in majors, keeping a desirable student-to-faculty ratio and remembering the financial burden of students.
Next, Miller posed the question, "Aesthetically, we're very sound, but we need to look at if we're getting the biggest bang for our buck. What are we doing right now?"
"Our strategic priorities are few," Davenport said. "Many universities focus on 30, but nothing gets done. We've decided to zero in on five or six and make sure they get accomplished."
Specifically, he pointed out diversity, international student enrollment, the reduction of non-viable programs and high employment rates following graduation as strategic priorities.
Straka added that compared to other universities, MSU "gets a great deal of bang for the buck."
To this, Norton replied, "What you're saying isn't really true because the fifth year is more expensive than the first four years combined."
Norton added that private colleges, in essence, are less expensive than some public colleges such as MSU because their students are able to graduate within four years.
A disgruntled Straka responded, "I truly believe we have the incentive to graduate in four years, much like private colleges."
Another open forum is tentatively scheduled for later this semester, and as with all open forums, students are encouraged to attend.
Rachel Heiderscheidt is the Reporter Assistant News Editor