Posted: October 22, 2004

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

Tuition may be a factor, officials say

For the first time in six years, enrollment at the 32 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities has dipped slightly, and system officials say that recent double-digit tuition increases may be a factor.

This fall, 893 fewer students have enrolled in classes than in the 2003 fall semester. Last year's fall semester headcount enrollment was 171,442, a record high for the system. This year's fall semester enrollment is 170,549, a drop of 0.5 percent (five-tenths of a percent).

Although the headcount enrollment drop is statistically small, system officials say they are concerned that four years of double-digit tuition increases may be having an impact on the number of students attending classes. Tuition at the state colleges and universities has increased nearly 60 percent over the past four years - from an average of $2,292 per year in fall 2000 to $3,618 in 2004 - as state funding has shrunk.

Chancellor James H. McCormick said college and university presidents are reporting that students are struggling to pay for college.

"Students are telling us that they have had to postpone their education because they just can't afford it. They are taking second or third jobs to be able to pay the tuition. And they are going into debt," McCormick said. "In 2003, our students borrowed a total of $317 million, more than twice the amount our students borrowed in 1995."

In addition to the tuition increases, other factors may have influenced the drop:

  • In northeastern Minnesota, several colleges had experienced significant enrollment increases when laid-off mine workers enrolled in short-term career education programs. The reopening of some mines has reduced the demand for these programs
  • Cuts in funding for educational programs offered at Minnesota correctional facilities by state colleges and universities caused some colleges to discontinue those programs, leading to enrollment decreases
  • Changes in the state's economy may have an impact on enrollment. Traditionally, enrollment tends to decline as the economy improves and people have an easier time finding jobs.

While fewer students are enrolled this fall, the number of course credits they are taking is projected to increase. The full-year-equivalent enrollment in credit classes is projected to increase by 0.5 percent for the current year. (Full-year equivalent enrollment is calculated by adding up the credits taken by all students and dividing by the number of credits considered to be a full-time course load - 30 credits per year for undergraduates and 20 credits for graduate students.) Campuses project a full-year-equivalent enrollment of 136,557 for the current year, compared with the actual full-year-equivalent enrollment of 135,819 for the 2003-2004 academic year.

Click here for a list of enrollment numbers for the colleges and universities.