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Bemidji State students pay highest tuition among McSCU schools

BEMIDJI President Obama announced Wednesday plans to give millions of young people some relief on their student loans, which are now the No. 2 source of household debt, exceeding credit card debt. This could affect students attending Bemidji Stat...

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President Obama announced Wednesday plans to give millions of young people some relief on their student loans, which are now the No. 2 source of household debt, exceeding credit card debt.

This could affect students attending Bemidji State University, a school that currently has the highest tuition rate among the seven four-year state universities in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

Under his plan, Obama seeks to accelerate a measure passed by Congress to reduce the maximum required payment on student loans from 15 percent of discretionary income annually to 10 percent. This will be put into effect in 2012, instead of 2014.

In addition, the White House says remaining student debt would be forgiven after 20 years, instead of 25.


Obama will also allow borrowers who have a loan from the Federal Family Education Loan Program and a direct loan from the government to consolidate them into one. The consolidated loan would carry an interest rate of up to a half percentage point less than before.

Dylan Davison, a junior at BSU, said Obama's plan to waive the remaining student debt after 20 years would help students.

"It will allow people to forgive their loans in a sooner amount of time," he said. "Hopefully it will help the economy and help people."

BSU attributes it higher tuition rate to changes made one decade ago.

In the late 1990s, BSU switched from per-credit tuition to banded tuition, which offers a flat rate for fulltime students. This meant students who have 12 or 18 credits pay the same amount.

In 2001, in order to compensate for this change, BSU raised tuition rates by 17.5 percent. By comparison, nationally, that same year public universities raised tuition by 7 percent. MnSCU universities raised tuition by 10 percent.

Today the state has set tuition caps on the percent MnSCU institutions can raise tuition.

"We were one of the few schools that had banded tuition within MnSCU in 2001 so our banded tuition model was used in some part as justification for the increase being 75 percent higher than the average of the other universities," said Bill Maki, BSU's vice president for finance and administration.


A national report on tuition costs from the College Board showed average in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges rose $631 this fall, or 8.3 percent, compared with a year ago. Nationally, the cost of a full credit load has passed $8,000, an all-time high.

While BSU sits on top of the tuition rate pyramid for Minnesota state universities, it is below the national average. This year the average cost of for a full credit load at BSU is $7,599.

University of Minnesota institutions are more costly. According to MnSCU, 2009-10 tuition rates at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities were at $11,287, and $10,261 for the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

BSU student Davison said he feels fortunate because his parents help pay for his tuition, but said tuition costs are still on his mind.

"I do think we need to do things to decrease it, but at the same time, some of these costs are being generated because we're implementing new programs that cost a bit more money to the student," Davison said.

BSU freshmen Sara Radzak and Emily Rollins were unaware that BSU's tuition was higher than other state four-year universities.

Both attended BSU for its nursing program and location. Neither of them qualified for student financial aid this year.

Rollins said tuition was one of the factors she thought of when choosing a college, but said BSU was "one of the cheaper schools" she found that offered a quality nursing program.


But while tuition and student loans are important to note, other students are concerned about federal aid dollars being axed due to budget cuts.

The Federal Pell Grant program provides grants to low-income students to promote access to postsecondary education. Spending on Pell Grants has nearly doubled in the last two years to around $35 billion.

BSU's Student Senate Co-Present Charles Woodson said the Minnesota State University Student Association is currently lobbying against the U.S. House's proposal to change the program's eligibility requirements.

According to MSUSA, the proposed changes will drop 9,500 students from the Pell Grant in Minnesota and will cost students $70 million in grants.

Woodson and other Student Senate members have gathered more than 300 signatures from BSU students to be sent to MSUSA.

"Students from all campuses are gathering those signatures and will hopefully use it as legislative work," Woodson said.

The Associate Press contributed to this article from the Bemidji Pioneer, like the Herald a Forum Communications Co. newspaper.

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