Honoring our state’s commitment to public higher education

OBy Sen. Mee Moua One of the strengths of any state is the excellence of its higher education institutions. In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have more than 50 public college campuses serving those in pursuit of higher education and advanced training. It is no secret that our skilled workers have been the most important asset to our state’s economy.

In fact, Minnesota’s public higher education system returns more than $6 in economic benefits for every $1 in state investments, and the enhanced productivity of our graduates contributes over $2 billion to the Minnesota economy each year. Higher education is clearly one of the best investments the state can make.

It’s unfortunate that our governor and most Republican legislators chose to undermine this legacy in the last legislative session. Most readers of The Minnesota Daily are well aware of the adverse consequences for higher education in the budget passed this year. The budget for the University system was reduced by nearly $94 million a year, by far the largest reduction in state support of any public research university in the nation. For resident undergraduates, tuition and fees will increase by almost 15 percent, or $842, bringing the average annual tuition to $6,562. To put this in perspective, it costs $208 per undergraduate credit. Thus, the rise in tuition is equivalent to paying for four undergraduate credits that students cannot apply toward their degree programs. And the cost per credit is going to increase for the upcoming school year.

Unfortunately, the main consequence of the budget is that it will now be more difficult for students to afford higher education. In addition, 15 percent annual tuition increases at the University will make public school tuition in Minnesota more expensive than in neighboring states, making it harder for us to compete for the best students in the region. I’m sure that higher education institutions in states such as Iowa and Wisconsin offer a quality education at affordable rates, but we need to keep students in Minnesota contributing to our economy and our quality of life.

I would not be a state senator today if I had been denied higher educational opportunities. Increasing the cost of higher education denies opportunity and access to all our students and endangers our future as a socially responsible and economically vibrant state. I did not vote for the budget and I did not vote for the higher education omnibus bill. The next time you hear an elected official ask for your vote, be sure to ask him or her if he or she voted for the higher education cuts. Officials might say they are for higher education, but their actions might suggest something different.

State Senator Mee Moua represents St. Paul’s East Side. She can be reached at [email protected]