Officials listen to students

Officials moved forward by discussing tuition problems with students.

Daily Editorial Board

It was encouraging to see that several public officials came to the University of Minnesota campus Monday to listen to students’ experiences with paying tuition and incurring debt.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, Gov. Mark Dayton and Office of Higher Education director Larry Pogemiller joined University President Eric Kaler on Monday to talk about college affordability and how state and federal aid aren’t keeping up with tuition increases. This is good news for students, because the more lawmakers we have thinking and talking about the price of higher education, the greater the chances that someone will do something about it.

The key to these lawmakers understanding the true burden of attending college right now is to stop assuming they can relate and start listening to current students. The average University student left school last year with $27,000 in loan debt — a number other generations never had to deal with because tuition was lower and federal and state grants and scholarships covered a greater percentage of tuition.

We need more officials to take up the issue of unaffordable education. We need the administration to be held accountable for wasteful spending and to find innovative ways to bring down the cost of tuition. We need the state to care more about taking the burden off of students when it comes to higher education and care less about making political statements through cuts. If we want this state to pick itself up after the recession, we must invest in education.

Listening to students’ stories is a start. We hope the lawmakers who were present Monday will hold more discussions, listen to more students and find ways to translate the problem into effective policy.