U needs long-term solutions

The governor and lawmakers should find ways to keep tuition down in the years to come.

A prominent theme of Gov. Mark Dayton’s State of the State Address last week was the need to invest in education to keep the state economy competitive.

With regard to cutting the cost of higher education, Dayton said, “We have started to make progress, but we have quite a ways to go.” Dayton noted that state higher education institutions have resorted to increasing tuition to deal with a long trend of declining state contributions.

Dayton’s assessment of the state of higher education in Minnesota is accurate, and it’s no small thing to have a governor admit that past failures on the part of lawmakers directly resulted in higher tuition costs.

Last year’s legislative session was productive in reversing those errors, with its imposing of a two-year tuition freeze along with strong investments to the University, which Dayton highlighted in his speech.

However, we agree with those who expressed concern about the things Dayton missed in his address.

Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, who chairs the higher education committee, said high student debt levels are a significant issue for Minnesota students and noticed that Dayton didn’t address that issue in his speech. Others rightly noted that Dayton did not propose anything new with regards to addressing high tuition and student debt.

Though Dayton may understandably not want to use his State of the State Address to propose new initiatives, we hope he, the Legislature and University of Minnesota administrators don’t focus so much on the tuition freeze that they fail to keep tuition down in the years to come.

It’s also important to note that graduates and non-resident students actually saw their tuition spike in the last year. In the coming years, we need strong leadership in order to find ways to keep tuition down for all students, not just some.