UM, MSU Student Leaders Question Tuition Freeze

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Student leaders from the University of Montana and Montana State told the Board of Regents on Thursday that they are concerned about possible decreases in services and quality of education if tuition is frozen for another two years.

Trevor Hunter, president of the Associated Students of the University of Montana, and Shane Colvin, MSU’s student body president, spoke at the regents’ monthly meeting. The student leaders said capping tuition in the short term would come at the expense of quality in the long term — leading to bigger class sizes, fewer course offerings and the elimination of some faculty.

The regents, along with Gov. Brian Schweitzer and lawmakers, agreed two years ago to cap tuition for all Montana college students at a time when the state was flush with money. But the state now finds itself in a very different financial situation.

Schweitzer has proposed using federal stimulus money to help freeze tuition — a move that Hunter questioned.

The UM student warned of possible large tuition increases awaiting future college students if there are no incremental increases today.

The students’ concerns arose from a memo written by regent chairman Stephen Barrett that said, “the top priority of the Board of Regents will be to freeze tuition for in-state students.” The Board did not vote on the memo and doesn’t set tuition for the following year until May.

UM President George Dennison and MSU President Geoff Gamble shared the concerns of the student leaders and suggested small, incremental increases in in-state tuition.

Some regents said they supported efforts to keep tuition as low as possible, including freezing it if possible. Several also called on lawmakers to do their part by allocating enough state money to higher education so the regents can achieve that goal.