U-system tuition increase hiatus ends

By VIRGINIA HOLST/Montana State News

Montana State University (MSU) is about to raise tuition and break a trend of slower tuition increases than the rest of the country for 10 years now.

Since the Legislature’s approval of House Bill 2, which cuts funding to the entire Montana University System (MUS), including MSU and other state Universities which will be increasing tuition.

The hike seems drastic, but when compared to similar universities across the country, such as Colorado State University (CSU) and the University of Wyoming (UW), other universities have increased their tuitions more rapidly than their counterparts in Montana.

“Over the past ten years the MUS has increased tuition at slower pace than any other state in the nation,” according to the Montana University System website.

In comparison, both CSU and U. of WY have seen dramatic climbs to both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates in the past ten years. Below are two graphs comparing each university’s annual tuition rates, for both in and out-of-state students, to their annual undergraduate enrollment.

While there is an obvious climb in out-of-state tuition rates at MSU, it is significantly more gradual than the others, and has somewhat leveled out in recent years.

This may be in part because of the in-state tuition freeze that Gov. Steve Bullock proposed, which has been in effect for four years now.

However, in-state tuition has not increased since 2012; therefore, Bullock’s tuition freeze is not the only explanation for Montana’s successful avoidance of drastic increases.

The more drastic tuition increases at CSU come in part because state funding only accounts for approximately 10 percent of their budget, according to “CSU Source,” the campus news outlet. This means that the majority of their funding comes from tuition dollars. Therefore, to increase programs, enrollment, etc., tuition must increase.

MSU is 33 percent state funded; however, this is still not ideal for students, and has been significantly higher in past years. For example, in 1992, state funding comprised 76 percent, according to the MUS operating budget. In theory, increased state funding means decreased likelihood for tuitions to rise.

Although Montana Universities have managed to increase their tuitions at slower rates than other states in past years, “tuition increases are inevitable” due to the new budget cuts, according to Tracy Ellig, the executive director of University Communications at MSU.

– edited by Rania Ampntel Chafint

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