Students should not fund salary increases

It would be foolish in our day and age to deny that money is a major, if not sole, factor in deciding a student’s abilities to attend college. With that in mind, it is particularly saddening to see University President Mark Yudof propose a 5.5 percent tuition increase to fund a 3 percent salary increase for faculty and staff members when there are many other places the University could get the money. However, instead of actually pursuing alternatives, President Yudof seems to be taking the path of least resistance, forcing students — who truly seem to be at the whim of the administration — to foot the bill.
Of course, a salary increase for staff and faculty members would certainly be welcome. It is important that a university have the resources to be able to attract and retain world-class faculty members. If we want to move up in the rankings as a solid university, known not only for research, but general academic appeal, we must have top-notch professors who can share their expertise and knowledge with the best and the brightest students. And the University must not only be able to attract good professors, it must also be able to keep them. Raising their salaries to keep up with inflation as well as other universities do would not be an unreasonable goal.
It is unreasonable, though, to think that the University’s strength results only from the professors it employs. A diverse myriad students is also required. The University cannot be limited to students who only fit into a certain income bracket; it must be broadly accessible so true dialogue and debate can occur. Although the founders of our University did not want income to be a barrier to getting a good education, increasingly it seems that this is the system that is in place today. It is hard enough for students to pay tuition at current levels; for the University to want to increase it is ridiculous.
Considering the large anticipated state surplus, it is also unfortunate that the Legislature refused to fulfill the University’s request. While the University should acknowledge that it is not the sole recipient of state funds and that the Legislature has an obligation to the state as a whole, education — from grade school to the University — should be on the priority of any state legislature. Education prepares future generations of citizens; to slight it is foolishly shortsighted.
It is unfortunate that President Yudof must go to the students for more money, though what is worse is that students seem to be accepting this with little protest. Matt Clark, president-elect of the Minnesota Student Association, seems to want to cast the Legislature as the only guilty party. While they are partly responsible, it seems odd to entirely absolve the University. With an institution this large, it is impossible to believe there is not superfluous spending going on somewhere. Without giving up or reducing vital programs, the University could no doubt be much more cost-effective. Salary increases could then result from the elimination of excess expenditures, not from increased tuition from students.