In the depths of an icy Montana winter, the last thing MSU students need is another freeze. MSU’s proposed tuition freeze, however, is a welcome one.
The Montana University System is asking the 2019 state legislature for an additional $24 million in funding to finance a tuition freeze. This freeze would fix tuition at its current level for Montana resident students for the next two years. The Montana Board of Regents, which sets tuition for all 16 Montana campuses, wants the funding in order to increase the amount of students who are able to attend college. If the funding is not approved, the cost of tuition could rise by a horrifying 7 percent over the next two years.
The proposed tuition freeze is included inside House Bill 2, which contains the overall state budget and many specific funding requests for other organizations. The funding for the freeze would come out of a general pool of tax revenue, and it will not result in higher taxes for Montanans. According to montana.gov, the Montana economy is strong and gaining ground. It is projected to be able to support both the freeze and other state spending ventures, and I believe it makes sense to put this money toward educating students who will make a real impact in the world.
Initial legislature responses in January were positive, although some questioned how the freeze would affect mandatory student fees. According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, deputy commissioner of higher education Tyler Trevor claimed that fees would probably only rise by roughly 2 percent. In addition, many fees are dictated by student governments and external circumstances that can influence what is needed on a campus.
MSU’s drive to keep well-educated citizens in Montana in order to keep the state flourishing undoubtedly plays a role in the planned freeze. The intent of providing widespread funding for state schools is, to an extent, meant to bolster a stronger job market with more educated people. The Montana University System certainly wants “well-educated workers to fill its ranks,” as Vice President of Communications and Legislative Liaison Tracy Ellig puts it. However, it is also aimed at fixing the very important issue of rising education costs.
The tuition freeze, ironically, warms my heart. As a high schooler, I was constantly worried about my ability to attend college. My family’s financial situation ensured that it would be very difficult to send me to college without some kind of scholarship. Although I was smart, driven, and desperately wanted to go to college, there was a chance that I would never have the opportunity to do so. I was fortunate enough to receive a generous scholarship from MSU that helped me achieve my dream, but there are many others for whom tuition can be out of reach.
I support the bill because I believe that finances should never prevent someone from attaining their goals, and I’m not alone in my opinion. Governor Bullock has thrown his weight behind this issue, as has MSU President Waded Cruzado. Ellig voiced his perspective by saying that “[i]t’s good for Montana families and it’s good for the state.”
MSU students should keep an eye on the upcoming legislative debates over the proposed freeze. It directly affects their future, as it will dictate the cost of their education and the opportunities that they will have. Make your voice heard and reach out to the Montana legislature about House Bill 2 by calling the Information desk at (406) 444-4800. You can find a list of representatives to talk to atleg.mt.gov/legislator-lookup/.