Big stadium on campus

The state should rejoice over the approval, but what about affordable education?

After a 24-year stint at the Metrodome, Golden Gophers football finally is returning to campus. In the last days of its 2006 session, the Minnesota Legislature resoundingly passed the Gophers stadium bill that approves the use of public money to fund 55 percent of the $242 million facility. While students and all Minnesotans alike should rejoice at the fact that the University is getting a new stadium, the construction of it moves us to question our priorities.

In a ceremony at the University last week, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the stadium bill into law and thus ensured Gophers football would have a new on-campus home. Construction for the 50,000-seat outdoor stadium is set to begin immediately, and the University plans to have the stadium complete by fall 2009.

In the 24 years since Gophers football moved downtown, things have changed a lot at the University. Back then, tuition for the average incoming student was $1,516 for the academic year. Since, tuition has skyrocketed to more than three times that.

Many strong supporters of the stadium say students deserve the on-campus experience that a stadium would bring. But how many young Minnesotans will not be able to experience college because they cannot afford it? This is to say nothing of the students who will pay for the stadium through their student fees yet might never be able to utilize it.

In a recent Star Tribune poll, a vast majority of Minnesotans (70 percent) did not favor using public money to pay for stadiums. Yet the state and local governments of Minnesota have approved the construction of the Gophers and the Twins stadiums.

There is no question that having an on-campus stadium will benefit and strengthen the University community. It will add to the rich tradition and history of the University and will increase the economic vitality of the surrounding community. But, the University must reinvest in education as well.

Now that the University has achieved its goal of a new on-campus stadium, it should pursue affordable tuition with the same fervor.