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Higher ed board waits on tuition hike after UND student gov't reaction

A motion that could have raised college tuition has been taken off the agenda for a State Board of Higher Education meeting after the University of North Dakota’s student government expressed outrage over not being consulted on the issue.

The line in the motion reading “In all cases, the representative student groups have been consulted and support the increases,” upset UND Student Body President Nick Creamer, as he had no knowledge of the potential tuition hike until Tuesday evening, when a UND staff member informed him.

“There was absolutely no conversation,” he said. “It was quite the disappointing feeling.”

Board spokeswoman Linda Donlin said in an email that student reaction at UND and North Dakota State University played a part in the removal of the motion.

“We certainly appreciate their concerns,” she said. “The Board Chair also felt it made more sense for the new committee to review the entire proposed budget, including the tuition discussion, and bring a recommendation to the board.”

The original agenda item for the meeting, scheduled for today, would have raised tuition by an average of 4.2 percent at the 11 institutions the board oversees. UND’s tuition would have gone up 4.9 percent from the 2013-14 school year’s rates of $312.82 per credit for in-state students and $741.38 per credit for nonresidents. With the average student taking 26 credits every year, resident students alone already pay more than $8,000 per year.

“A new Budget and Finance Committee of the Board will be established tomorrow,” Donlin said. “Chair (Kirsten) Diederich would like that committee to then review the annual budget in advance of the next Board meeting.”

Creamer said he found it discouraging that student government had been left out of the conversation.

“It’s very troubling to even have to say this or feel this way, but students don’t always feel like they’re heard on some issues, tuition being one of them,” he said. “I have felt my voice, on behalf of all of them, has not been listened to. So, when something such as this happens, once again it appears there is absolutely no value in our opinion.”

The item also would have given all institutions an average salary increase of a minimum of 3 percent for permanent employees, with exceptions, as well as address a possible increase in student fees.

Creamer has addressed the board before about the rising cost of tuition and said he felt disheartened the board didn’t appear to value the opinion of students.

“We’ve made it very clear that we understand that we aren’t the ‘be all, end all’ of who gets to set tuition,” he said. “If we had it our way, there would be no increase at all, but that being said, we do expect there to be a conversation that takes place.”

Since the item has been scratched, the board’s Budget and Finance Committee will review the budget, including the possibility of a tuition increase and bring their recommendations to the board at a later, undetermined date.

“It’s been a learning experience,” Creamer said.

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.

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