Thursday, April 22, 2010

Governor Pawlenty lasting effect on Higher Education

Higher education is the natural next step in having a strong k-12 school system. In Minnesota we have a rich history have of education. The University of Minnesota is in fact older than the State of Minnesota itself and through the years it became a venerable institution of learning, innovation and technology. In addition to the University of Minnesota the state has developed a Minnesota State College system that includes seven universities across the state. These institutions are responsible for educating many of the people in our state and because of which it is critical that they stay competitive in the higher education market.

With our dramatic budget deficits Governor Pawlenty has continued to cut funding to higher education which has put these institutions in a position of having to increase tuition dramatically. This is a similar situation that the University of Minnesota found itself in 2003 when they had to raise tuition 5% for two years in a row in order to meet the budget after the dramatic budget cuts. We are facing similar economic times today. This article from MPR (of which I am a member so feel no guilt in linking to their webpage in a blog posting of mine) MPR Higher Education Cuts outlines the current fiscal crisis. It also points out that while Governor Pawlenty is cutting the budget dramatically forcing tuition hikes while also passing a law that would limit tuition hikes to 3%. This would dramatically reduce the options for the University of Minnesota to function at the high standard we are accustom to. A more recent article in the Daily highlights the tuition hikes that are facing out-of-state tuitions Daily-Out-of-State Tuition increase to the toll of 7.5%, stimulus money has shielded in-state students from facing the same fate but this dramatic increase will result in 42% of the University’s budget to be paid for by tuition. The first year in which is surpasses state funding.

A slightly more recent article in the Daily highlights the other cuts Governor Pawlenty has made that will affect grants and student loans Daily-Pawlenty Cuts. The article states that nearly half of students going to college today take out student loans and decreasing their ability to combine work study and other funding opportunities might affect who attends college. This is particularly unwelcome because of the difficult financial times we are currently facing and people are going to college in greater numbers. We should be supporting these people in the good decision to educate themselves and instead Governor Pawlenty is making it harder on them.
To further highlight the kind of political maneuvering this has become Margaret Anderson Kelliher who is currently speaker of the house and is running for Governor highlights higher education as one of the issues on her campaign website Margaret-Higher Education Issue Statement (warning this will direct you to a very partisan website).

In conclusion Pawlenty has caused tuition to increase in Higher Education and runs the risk of devaluing the importance of Higher Education in Minnesota, with any luck new direction in the Governor’s office will renew our commitment to creating the most educated work force in the country.

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