UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
UW-River Falls Chancellor Maria Gallo, left, addresses members of the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities June 8 during a hearing about a proposed change to the tuition reciprocity agreement between Wisconsin and Minnesota. UWRF photo.
June 8, 2023 – University of Wisconsin-River Falls Chancellor Maria Gallo testified in Madison Thursday, June 8, in support of changing the state’s tuition reciprocity agreement with Minnesota, saying the legislation would enable Wisconsin universities to pay for enhanced student learning opportunities.
Calling the current tuition reciprocity funding system “outdated,” Gallo told members of the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities that proposed legislation, Assembly Bill 140, that would allow UW System campuses to retain additional reciprocity tuition paid by Minnesota students is necessary to better serve students from both states. Wisconsin and Minnesota have had a tuition reciprocity agreement dating to the 1970s.
Currently, UW-River Falls and other UW System schools that enroll Minnesota students do not retain the higher tuition that those students pay. Instead, part of that money is returned to Minnesota, while the rest is deposited in the general fund of the state budget and is not used for higher education purposes.
“That is revenue that could have been reinvested in UWRF, meeting student demands and filling regional employer needs,” Gallo told the committee.
In 2021-22, 43% of UW-River Falls students were from Minnesota. Had rules of the proposed tuition reciprocity bill been in place, it would have meant an additional $4.3 million in revenue that year for UWRF.
“That revenue would allow us to offer more innovative, high-quality programming for our students, add advisers and support student success, and increase hands-on collaboration opportunities with local employers,” Gallo said.
UW System schools are of vital importance to the regions where they are located, Gallo said, and they are training students to fill current workforce and talent needs in Wisconsin’s economy. With its proximity to the Twin Cities and construction to begin soon on a new Science and Technology Innovation Center, UW-River Falls is in a strong position to boost the regional economy, she said.
“But we will only be effective if we are able to fully capitalize on and reinvest the revenue we raise through the Minnesota-Wisconsin tuition reciprocity arrangement,” she said.
UWRF senior Mayala Keita, a food science major who grew up in Coon Rapids, Minn., testified that she chose to attend UWRF in large part because of its affordability. She said she was surprised to learn that not all the tuition she pays goes to UWRF.
Keita praised the education she has received at UWRF and said Assembly Bill 140 “is essential not only to provide those same (educational) benefits but expand on them, allowing for future classes to have an even better education than I received.”
Gallo thanked state lawmakers who represent River Falls – Rep. Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls), Rep. Warren Petryk (R-Eleva), Sen. Jeff Smith (D-Town of Brunswick) and Sen. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) – for supporting the tuition reciprocity bill. Zimmerman is lead author on the Assembly bill.
UW-River Falls enrolls more than 5,000 students, attracting primarily Wisconsin and Minnesota students in a variety of fields that are valuable to the economic growth of western Wisconsin.