State’s priorities are taxing the U

The University is valuable to Minnesota, educating the next generation of leaders.

University President Bob Bruininks recently announced next year’s tuition will rise another 14 percent and will likely continue climbing for the next few years. While not surprising, this is unacceptable to students. Unfortunately, the University has no other alternative, given grossly inadequate state funding.

Last year, state support of the University was $185 million less than the prior budget. This was not a reduction in funding growth; it was a cut. In 2001, the University received $1.23 billion, while under the 2003 budget approximately $1.1 billion.

Students bear 44 percent of the resulting deficit; faculty, administration and programs bear 49 percent and the rest is coming from new revenue sources. Next year’s tuition hike is part of that plan, and while unfortunate, the students saw it coming. More troubling are the looming tuition hikes in coming years.

This University is valuable to Minnesota, educating the next generation of business people, medical professionals, entrepreneurs and other leaders, not to mention windfalls from research and cultural value. The University cannot maintain a comprehensive, high-quality academic environment at reasonable costs if it continues to lack state support. To survive, the University would cut programs, allow academic standards to erode and raise tuition to levels unheard of in public higher education.

Some legislators have argued the University wastes its resources but never supported this with empirical evidence, instead resorting to anecdotes about programs to cut according to their personal values and prejudices. But ISES Corp., a national facility-engineering and management service, determined the University better managed its resources than other institutions in a report on building and maintenance needs.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty frequently claims we have thus far endured the state’s budget crisis without tax increases. But Minnesota hit students with an $850 tax this year and will levy another $1,750 next year. If this continues through the next budget cycle, in two years we will be complaining about tuition alone approaching $10,000 for full-time undergraduates.

Skyrocketing tuition can be checked. Concerned citizens should contact their legislators and make it clear the University is invaluable to Minnesota, and the whole state must support it.