By Melissa Thorud A 30-year-old reciprocity policy within the UW-System has gained recent traction for change. UW-River Falls is among some of the schools advocating for a policy change that better …
By Melissa Thorud
A 30-year-old reciprocity policy within the UW-System has gained recent traction for change. UW-River Falls is among some of the schools advocating for a policy change that better fits the needs of universities within the UW-System.
The policy has been in place for many years and allows for Minnesota resident students to pay a slightly higher in-state rate at UW-System schools. The extra amount that these students pay is split, with a portion going back to Minnesota and a portion going to a Wisconsin State general fund.
UW-River Falls Chief of Staff Beth Schommer said, “A Wisconsin student going to Minnesota pays Minnesota in-state rate and of course that all just goes to Minnesota; when the Minnesota student comes to Wisconsin and pays the Minnesota in-state rate, their rate is higher, but we only get to keep the Wisconsin in-state rate on our campus.”
According to recent UWRF data, about 46% of students on the River Falls campus are Minnesota residents. The extra money that these students pay in tuition can range anywhere between $1 million to $3 million on a yearly basis.
UW-River Falls Chancellor Maria Gallo said, “It is more than likely that we would recover somewhere between one and three million dollars, depending on how many students we have each year from Minnesota and that will fluctuate, but the good thing about it is that it is not just a one-time payment, it is recurring each year.”
Gallo recently went to Madison to advocate for this policy change; campuses similar in size and area to UW-River Falls are also in favor of this change. It has been a trend at the UWRF campus for the student population to be right around 50% Minnesota residents each year. This policy would allow for extra funds to be placed back into the campus for student success programs.
“It is a significant amount of money to our base salary so we can focus more on student success and we want to implement those things that will serve student persistence and graduation; that being first-year experience and professional advising models and things like that, which the students want,” said Chancellor Gallo.
The policy change will allow for the negotiation rights to be in the hands of the UW-System. Currently the negotiation of funds resides with a group called Wisconsin’s Higher Educational Aid Board (HEAB). With this change, it will allow for the funds to flow back through the UW-System instead of going to the state general fund. Schommer said, “The bill does two things, it changes who gets the negotiation rights and instead of HEAB negotiating the fund, the UW-System gets that right instead.”
The policy is still going through the process of approval; the next step will be a Senate hearing and then it eventually will land on the Wisconsin governor’s desk for final approval. Gov. Tony Evers has expressed support for this policy change in the past, so the hope is for the proposal to be approved at some point this year.
With this policy change it is also important to note that universities are not planning to change the current reciprocity tuition rates for Minnesota residents. Currently tuition for Minnesota residents is $15,765 per year and for Wisconsin residents it is $14,660. These rates will continue to remain lower than the out-of-state tuition, which is $22,233.
The bills for the policy change were introduced by the elected officials who represent River Falls, Rep. Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls) and Sen. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond). Schommer said, “Those two are the lead authors of the bills and they are doing it because they understand how valuable it is for our campus.”
The Senate hearing is set to take place in the first weeks of February and the process will continue from there.