ST. PAUL -- The state of Minnesota is re-examining its reciprocity policy that pays tuition subsidies for students who attend college in surrounding states.
The Higher Education Services Office must present a list of recommendations to the 2002 Legislature on how to change the system. That system, in some cases, makes Minnesota students pay more to go to an in-state school than their out-of-state classmates.
Over the next two years, the state will send millions of dollars to North Dakota and Wisconsin as part of current reciprocity pacts.
And some say that's not good policy.
"On top of losing our students, we're having to pay other states to take them," said Rep. Joe Opatz, DFL-St. Cloud.
Earlier this year, Opatz proposed ending the tuition subsidies. A watered-down version of the bill passed in the final days of the legislative session that requires Minnesota to re-negotiate its reciprocity agreements and figure out a way to save the state some money.
"These are outdated agreements that are not in Minnesota's best interest," Opatz said.
Nearly 20,500 Minnesotans were attending public colleges in Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota in 1999, according to the Higher Education Services Office. About 16,700 students came to Minnesota that year from those states.
The budget passed by the Legislature this year contains $10.5 million to pay Wisconsin and North Dakota for Minnesota students they educate due to a formula based on the difference between tuition paid and instructional costs.
Minnesota's agreement with South Dakota is structured differently and does not require the interstate payments. Limited reciprocity also exists with Iowa and the Canadian province of Manitoba.
"We're unusual in that we have these statewide agreements," said Phil Lewenstein, spokesman for the Higher Education Services Office. "I don't know if there are other states that have the kind of broad, open agreements. Minnesota has really been a pioneer."
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