University is late to class

The scholarship drive is a commendable effort that should have begun earlier.

On Monday the University announced $34 million was raised in the first year of the University scholarship drive, a new effort to create more scholarships for University students.

The University lags behind every other Big Ten school in providing scholarships for undergraduates, and the need for financial assistance has increased. Tuition jumped 52 percent in just four years as students made up a larger portion of state budget cuts than any other group.

What the scholarship drive will do is allow an estimated 2,250 more students to receive scholarships. What it will not do is attack the root of the tuition crisis.

First, as the University Foundation points out, private donors are not willing to do the state’s job. These donors’ gifts will supplement other funding sources, but they do not, and should not, replace state support.

Reversing the trend at the Legislature in the short term will require more aggressive lobbying. In the long term, it will require a change in leadership at the Capitol.

Second, while it is promising that undergraduate scholarships are now listed as the primary area of need for private funding, the new effort does not address the distribution of University funds.

University President Bob Bruininks and his administration should not point to a new funding campaign while ignoring difficult questions. For example, are all sectors of the University community “sharing the pain” in a balanced way? Are all building projects a wise use of funds?

While the scholarship drive is a commendable effort, it should have begun the moment tuition hikes hit double digits. It will benefit many students, but it will not solve the tuition crisis.

When it comes to addressing these important issues, Bruininks and the University are late to class. The scholarship drive should mark just the first step in an effort to address the crisis.