Dear Mr. Claus

Here’s a Christmas list wishing the University of Minnesota out of the red — oh, and a Sweet 16.

Ian Byrne

Much has changed over the years since the U.S. Post Office returned my letter requiring more postage. No wonder I didnâÄôt get that dinosaur that year!

How does it feel to live in Russia since they claimed the North Pole in 2007? I guess nothing says “Merry Christmas” like singing the “Gosudarstvenny Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii.”

I am in college now. And instead of asking for a Nintendo 64, my wish list contains a few things I would like for my school, the University of Minnesota.

I wish that the University receives proper funding and our administrators demonstrate more fiscal responsibility. The state of Minnesota has slashed University funding year after year. With tuition continually rising, class sizes increasing and class cancellations, I am left wondering why, throughout campus, I see walls plastered with flat screen televisions telling me the weather outside.

I have always been bewildered as to why public education is so underfunded. I attended a public high school in St. Paul. I remember my Spanish class did not have enough textbooks or desks for students. Instead, we had one textbook to two students and could only use them in class. We had to trade off every day sitting on carpet patches on the floor. Needless to say, I did not learn much Spanish that year.

It has always been obvious to me that funding public education is a win-win situation. Minnesota had a great history of funding public education. In 1849, nine years before Minnesota was even a state, the territory became the first to institute a property tax to support education. Unfortunately, our public schools have fallen victim to the fiscal “strategy” of cutting taxes and cutting spending in an effort to get out of a budget deficit.

Every so often, I have a heart-breaking conversation with a colleague whose plans have been derailed by rising costs. Whether it be a study abroad experience forgone, the choice made to take a year off to work and save money or transferring from the University to a lower-cost school, these are the causalities of our stateâÄôs fiscal disregard and the University administrationâÄôs failure to accept the constraints imposed by tough economic times.

As a kid, I was paid a weekly allowance. If I wanted a raise and my father said no, how would I get the money to live the extravagant 11-year-old lifestyle I wanted? Would it be fair to charge my already generous neighbors more for my snow shoveling services without doing a more thorough job?

As annual tuition has increased by about three grand during my five years at the University, I cannot say that I have noticed an improvement in my education or college experience. I am grateful to the University for the opportunities it has given me. But as far as bang for my buck goes, I am not even getting a soft thump.

The word “affordable” has been redefined the past decade. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “affordable” as “to manage to bear without serious detriment.” Well, how many students feel that their college debt is not a serious detriment? It is a shame that taking on debt has become the norm in our society.

Alas, Mr. Claus, I will be graduating this year. But for the sake of future University students, I wish that the incoming Gov.-elect Mark Dayton and President-select Eric Kaler administrations recognize the realities that exist and take the appropriate measures to make the University, a public institution, well-funded and affordable.

Otherwise, Mr. Claus, I wish the federal government would stop talking about fixing FAFSA and actually fix it. I have had many conversations with students in the same position as me. We come from middle-class families, but our FAFSA report shoots out an Expected Family Contribution that would make for a solid down payment on a yacht. With that in mind, why will I graduate with a good five figures of debt?

As I have many wishes for studentsâÄô livelihoods and the UniversityâÄôs academic prestige, I cannot help but also wish for a good Golden Gopher football team. Now, a lot of people were disappointed that we did not get a big-name coach, but as my colleagues on the Minnesota Daily Editorial Board pointed out, coach KillâÄôs record shows he is a proven winner. Good coaches work their way up. This is coach KillâÄôs chance to prove he can coach at the highest level in college football. I wish that he succeeds, Mr. Claus.

Mr. Claus, I also wish that any ambiguity regarding whether Gopher Nation is a failed state be cleared up. Did it die with the BrewâÄôs Crew coup? Will coach Kill resurrect the greatness of Gopher Nation that never was?

While I am on the subject, I also wish for the menâÄôs basketball team to make it to the Sweet 16. I wish the Vikings get a stadium deal, a new offensive line, a quarterback we can build a franchise around and win at least six Super Bowls over the next decade. The Twins need an ace, Justin MorneauâÄôs concussion needs to go away, and Joe Mauer needs to seriously consider moving to third. The Timberwolves need to play defense or else my winter break is going to be ostensibly boring and disappointing. Only kidding âÄî no one actually watches the Timberwolves.

Mr. Claus, I wish that by the time you receive this, the Metrodome is condemned and scheduled for demolition. Most of all, I wish that everyone at the University has an excellent winter break wherever they may be and enjoy any holidays they celebrate.

Sincerely,

Ian

 

Ian Byrne welcomes comments at [email protected].