Tuition hike a blow to students

It also shows an unsettling trend of under-prioritizing higher education.

University President Bob Bruininks proposed a 14 percent tuition increase to the Board of Regents last week. Though Bruininks warned students of the hike a year ago, this does not soften the blow; and this fall will see the fourth-consecutive double-digit tuition increase.

Still reeling from record cuts in state funding, Bruininks can do only so much with the bleak options left him. Minnesota Republicans, led by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, consider higher education a low priority and seem determined to cut University funding to the point where students end up paying private school prices.

The numbers and statistics bear out this conclusion, as well as an unsettling trend of under-prioritizing higher education.

Startlingly, the cuts make the University’s current funding on par with what it received 17 years ago, when adjusted for inflation. During this period the University has grown tremendously. It is currently in the midst of numerous renovations, improvements and construction projects; enrollment is higher than ever. In short, the University must accomplish more with less funding.

In 1989 the University received 7 percent of the state budget, while now it gets a mere 3.9 percent. Just five years ago the cost per credit for undergraduate students was $154. Currently a credit costs approximately $229 – a number that will increase this fall. On top of tuition increases are the seemingly unstoppable increasing costs for books, student fees and housing expenses. Combined with increasing gas prices for commuters and stagnant wages, the price of public higher education in Minnesota leaves many students out in the cold or under a pile of debt.

Some effects of Pawlenty’s policy will not appear immediately. Still, out-of-state universities such as Iowa and Wisconsin will immediately tempt Minnesota’s brightest students with their lower tuition rates. Many of these students might not return upon graduation. More problematically, many young people will forgo college altogether.

In conclusion, under-prioritizing higher education is clearly a huge mistake whose burdens will land on students’ backs in the short term and on the state as a whole in the long run.