Budget Cuts at the U of M and MNSCU

A March 12, 2008, front page article in the STPP reports that state college costs for Minnesota students are nearly twice the U. S. average.   To read the article click here, click on the home tab, and choose Archived Search and enter “college costs” in the search box.   On average, tuition fees for a full-time student in Minnesota are $4,720. The College_Web.jpgnational average is $2,440. If Governor Pawlenty’s proposed budget cuts is enacted, they are about to go up even higher.

The Governor has proposed a $50 million cut to the U of M and MNSCU. This follows a 2003 cut of $380 million. The result was five years of double-digit tuition increases. Last year, we reinvested in higher education, nearly filling the funding gap left by the 2003 cuts. As a result we were able to curb the double-digit increases. If we cut higher education again, we would likely derail that progress.

I serve on the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee and on Wednesday, March 12, we heard testimony from the U of M President Bob Bruiniks. At the hearing he said these new cuts would likely result in either reductions in student services or tuition increases. Either way, students would not be shielded from these cuts. “I’m not coming here to tell you the University of Minnesota should not be part of the solution,” he told the committee, “but I am coming here to tell you this cut is too deep.” The MNSCU vice chancellor Laura King also told the committee that tuition increases would be a last resort, but could not be ruled out. “There is no way for us to remove this much money from the budget without a serious impact on students, on faculty and on the strategic initiatives that include providing the educated work force Minnesota needs.”

The Governor advised the U of M and MNSCU that if they could not find ways to cut this percentage from their budgets he would find ways to do it.  Click here then scroll down to “budget balancing plan.” This is reminiscent of what he told mayors and county administrators a few years ago when he slashed Local Government Aid (LGA). The actions of that cut resulted in huge property tax increases to offset the cut.

Balancing the budget is not easy business, but in addressing our current budget deficit, it’s important we consider the long-term economic implications of our actions. Every economist agrees that quality of the workforce is linked to economic development, and the quality of our higher education institutions is where we train and develop our workforce.

In the coming weeks, we will continue to work toward a responsible plan to balance the budget. I’m hopeful we can reach an agreement that addresses both the short and long- term concerns of our state. In that spirit, I will work to take Higher Education off the chopping block.

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