Prioritizing the University

Next semester, University lobbyists and President Bob Bruininks will enter the queue of interest groups at the State Capitol and plead their case as to why the state should grant its $141.2 million budget request. Its prospects look bleak, as lawmakers have already grimly stated their doubts that the request will be met in full. Indeed, these days in Minnesota, the numbers are red âÄî by about $5 billion âÄî and the University may strike more luck by posting a lobbyist on the Capitol lawn with a tin can and hard-faced frown. The University, however, has an inherently strong case for state funds âÄî one that lawmakers should seriously consider. For starters, the cost of higher education has already risen at stunning rates. At the University of Minnesota, tuition rates have increased by 55 percent in a mere decade. While many critics blame the University for pointing its focus toward research at the expense of undergraduates âÄî and rightfully so âÄî state lawmakers should not be exonerated. During Jessie VenturaâÄôs administration, the state began egregiously slashing funds for the University, and tuition subsequently rose at rates as high as 14 percent. Students in Minnesota as a result have some of the highest debt loads in the nation. That should not be the norm. Bruininks will argue that the University is an investment for the state. While it may be one thatâÄôs increasingly turning away from undergraduate education, heâÄôs right. It creates thousands of jobs and sends thousands of well-educated students into the workforce every year. Lawmakers should end the trend of deprioritizing the University next session, lest they sell off those well-educated studentsâÄô degrees to the banks they will owe for a lifetime.