Keep higher ed a high priority

A bill that would cut higher education funding is shortsighted and misguided.

by Daily Editorial Board

Republicans in the state Legislature proposed a bill last week that would freeze planned spending increases for higher education in 2012 and 2013. This would effectively cut $200 million from state higher education, $89 million of which would come from the University of Minnesota.

This bill seeks to solve the state budget deficit in exactly the wrong way. Wasteful programs and unnecessary investments should be cut, but higher education is neither. The stateâÄôs higher education system is the biggest opportunity for social mobility many residents have.

Furthermore, cutting higher education funding is simply bad business for the state. College graduates make more money than their counterparts with less education, which means they pay more in taxes. In addition, MinnesotaâÄôs educated workforce attracts businesses that require special skills to the state. That is why large companies like 3M and Best Buy are headquartered here. University President Bob Bruininks says that for every dollar spent on higher education, the return is $4 in economic activity.

Disinvesting in higher education is a shortsighted and irresponsible way to bring down the state budget deficit that will hamstring one of MinnesotaâÄôs comparative advantages âÄî it is 10th in the country in the proportion of its population with a college degree and first in the Midwest.

The University is already cut to the bone as it is. More cuts will directly harm instruction or lead to tuition increases. This will unfairly shift the burden of the state budget deficit onto those who can least afford to bear it: already-burdened college students.