Debating the University

The three gubernatorial candidates made unsettling statements about tuition, but they did their homework on University issues.

by Editorial board

FridayâÄôs gubernatorial debate left no question which candidate is savvy on University of Minnesota issues: all of them. But if the question becomes which candidate is the strongest ally for students, the answer is more disappointing. Regrettably, all three candidates refused to commit to hold down short-term tuition costs. We treasure political honesty. But we donâÄôt appreciate lack of political will to tackle what has become an embarrassing disparity between the rising costs of public higher education and its eroding quality. Tom Emmer rightfully earned applause for his proposal to slash administrative costs, asserting high tuition is also a matter of an institution not being able to deliver an affordable product. WeâÄôre glad Mark Dayton and Tom Horner agreed. Still, EmmerâÄôs emphasis on public higher education as a product disregarded its public element. He said the next University president should be from âÄúthe business world,âÄù which makes us queasy. Independence Party candidate Horner, in answering what he would look for in the next president, reiterated the administrationâÄôs rhetoric about having a leader who wants the University to be a âÄúworld-class research university,âÄù which is unfortunate in its stress on research. Dayton, the Democrat whose higher education plan is the most supportive of the University, should have been more assertive about that plan. We were nevertheless pleased to hear he would use the moral authority of the governorâÄôs office to support gay rights and anti-bullying legislation. Yet it was Horner, a former Republican, who stole the show on social issues. His passionate rebuke of ArizonaâÄôs racist anti-immigration legislation and forceful support of gay rights made EmmerâÄôs refusal to directly answer questions about social issues look even more disrespectful than the Republican candidate could have managed on his own.