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Minnesota Officials seek new tuition pact

ST. PAUL - A months-long impasse hasn't broken the hopes of state higher education leaders that a new tuition reciprocity deal with Wisconsin can be reached by the end of February.

ST. PAUL - A months-long impasse hasn't broken the hopes of state higher education leaders that a new tuition reciprocity deal with Wisconsin can be reached by the end of February.

"I am hopeful we'll be able to reach some kind of a compromise," Susan Heegaard, director of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, told legislators Wednesday.

She remains in negotiations with the Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board, while Minnesota leaders grapple with possible solutions to a system that sees Wisconsin students attending the University of Minnesota paying up to $2,700 a year less than Minnesotans.

"I'm just trying to have two kids sitting next to each other paying the same amount," said Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, who is sponsoring a House bill aimed at correcting the situation.

But Heegaard bristled at some portions of Huntley's bill heard Wednesday in a House higher education committee.

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One committee member expressed concern that a legislative tract could be seen as too aggressive.

"Seems to me, it kind of blows up everything, potentially," said Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls.

Huntley's bill calls on the Legislature to ensure the tuition gap shrinks by requiring Wisconsin students attending college in Minnesota to pay at least as much as Minnesotan students do. The new tuition rate would begin to be phased in during the 2007-08 term.

Higher education officials said they would like the issue resolved by the end of the month to inform incoming students of any potential changes made to the tuition agreement.

Some questions remained as to whether a change in the reciprocity agreement is within the Legislature's jurisdiction.

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