Senate higher education bill short-changes U of M, MnState students

 

The Senate’s higher education omnibus bill passed off the floor this week with disappointing funding levels for the University of Minnesota and MnState college system. Over the past 15 years, our state has seen a historic disinvestment in Minnesota State and the University of Minnesota. During economic downturns, higher education was cut to fill budget deficits. Now, as the state faces a $1.65 billion surplus, it is time to reinvest those funds.  Unfortunately, this bill fails to even keep pace with system needs from the past two years, making this bill yet another disinvestment in higher education.

The Higher Education budget bill provides only $100 million to state schools, which is $218 million below the Governor’s proposal and far below what officials at the U of M and MnState had requested to maintain educational quality at campuses and help keep tuition low. The bill also falls short in funding state higher education grants to students, providing $52 million less than the Governor’s recommendation – this funding deficiency will only add to our student loan debt problem.

In contrast, the Governor’s budget recommendation would have provided $96 million for the U of M and $150 million for MnState. The governor also recommended adding provisions to address campus sexual violence, homelessness, and the state’s teacher shortage. Funding was also recommended to address aging technology infrastructure for both systems.

Although the bill does contain language for a tuition freeze at MnState, it does not provide enough funding to alleviate potential cuts to critical programs or quality professors. Reducing college curricula means fewer options and less availability for our college students to graduate on time.

Minnesota faces a serious worker shortage and businesses are clamoring for qualified workers. We need thoughtful investments and innovation in our higher education, not cuts to the systems that help educate our future workforce. This bill fails to provide essential investments in our state schools, short-changes students, businesses and will exacerbate our student loan debt problem.

jacquec