Horner disregards U

The candiate’s proposal fails to recognize the role of the University.

Daily Editorial Board

In policy, gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner, an Independent, is trying to split the difference between Republicans and Democrats, and higher education is no exception. HornerâÄôs plan calls for $30 million more for research funding for Minnesota state colleges and universities but no other additional funding. This is a good first step forward âÄî research is a fundamental part of the University of MinnesotaâÄôs mission and any additional funding for it is beneficial.
Still, there is a larger issue this plan brings to light: Politicians like Horner seem to think the only value of the University is in its immediate economic impact on the state.
Since few benefits of a public research university are immediate, appeals for more funding have been falling on deaf ears in St. Paul. Even during a budget crisis and recession, investment in higher education can improve the long-term financial health of the state. A high number of graduates attracts industry, and higher average wages of graduates means more tax revenue and less of a burden on welfare programs.
HornerâÄôs education plan takes an obvious step to help the stateâÄôs economy, but it does not take action to support the other aspects of the UniversityâÄôs land grant mission. Yes, one of the UniversityâÄôs cornerstones is research, but another is educating thousands of students each year, something that the next governorcannot ignore.
State government has stopped asking whether the University is doing what is right for its students and started demanding it do what is best for business. That is not how the University fulfills its mission. Horner should revise his plan for higher education accordingly.