The chopping block

Cuts in higher education should be unacceptable in the context of exponentially rising tuition rates.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed a $151 million cut to the University of Minnesota for the next two fiscal years to help cope with MinnesotaâÄôs $5.1 billion budget deficit. If PawlentyâÄôs budget proposal holds true in the upcoming battle with the DFL-controlled Legislature, tuition will become a bigger revenue source than state aid in 2010 âÄî which is part of an alarming trend that proves MinnesotaâÄôs diminishing interest in its higher education institutions. Indeed, the University faces the task once again of reducing, cutting and exterminating. President Bob Bruininks has stated that tuition increases will not be above 10 percent annually in dealing with the budget crisis âÄî a revolting 5.5 percent annual increase from the original budget proposal. But there is hope. According to budget instructions sent out to administrative officials, the University is bracing for a 6.5 percent tuition increase in 2010 and a 7 percent increase the next year, coupled with an $8 million allocation from the state for middle-income scholarships. While thatâÄôs an obvious improvement from a 10 percent tuition increase, it illustrates the LegislatureâÄôs unacceptable propensity to de-prioritize higher education, considering that during the last biennium (amid a much less stormy budget forecast) tuition rates rose 7.5 percent in 2008-2009. Bruininks has certainly been showering lawmakers with rhetoric about the UniversityâÄôs precarious situation, and he should continue pushing middle-income scholarships just as hard as blanket tuition reductions, the latter of which eases every studentâÄôs burden. Lawmakers should cast aside vapid rhetoric for action. We realize that the depth of the recession will leave the state chopping block bloody-red. But, in the context of a decade worth of dwindling state-support, there should be strong reason for lawmakers to prioritize higher education.