Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pawlenty Going Back on Higher Ed Promise?

One of my favorite legislators recently spoke out against Governor Pawlenty's proposal to gut higher education to balance the state's budget.
The nearly $380 million in cuts to the U and to MnSCU triggered five years of steep, double-digit tuition increases. As a result, according to a study just released by the governor's own Office of Higher Education, tuition in Minnesota is now double the national average. In addition, Minnesota has become a Big Ten leader in student debt, with the average graduate leaving school $21,000 in the hole. Last year, we successfully put an end to double-digit tuition increases by nearly filling the funding gap left by the cuts in 2003, but the governor's new proposed cuts would derail this progress.

MnSCU faced a $193 million cut, $183 million was made up through tuition increases. The Governor's cuts were placed directly on the backs of college students and their parents.

During Pawlenty's first term, tuition at our state colleges rose nearly 70% and much higher at our community and technical colleges. The increases moved Minnesota from one of the most affordable states for higher education and into the Top 15 in the nation for tuition.

As recent as 2006, Minnesota earned a D when it comes to affordability of higher education.

And Governor Pawlenty wants to cut higher education?

Remember that Governor Pawlenty, during his 2006 reelection, talked a lot about higher education. He labeled the tuition increases of his first term as "excessive" and he promised to hold down future increases if reelected.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty acknowledged in a major policy address Tuesday that tuition costs at Minnesota's public colleges and universities rose too fast during his first term, and he promised to hold down further increases if he is reelected.

"The tuition-level increases were too high,'' he said in a speech at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute in Minneapolis. He added an explanation: "Keep in mind that we had a budget crisis of historic magnitude in 2003. It's now 2006, and we've gotten to the point where we are adding back to higher education, and we will again.''

Source: Startribune, July 26, 2006

If Governor Pawlenty had the best interests of the higher education community in mind, perhaps he would take appointments to the MnSCU Board in a more serious fashion.

The Technical College Student has served 21 months beyond her June 30, 2006 term expiration.

The State University Student has served 9 months beyond the end of his June 30, 2007 term expiration. Recall the Luke Hellier case?

It's evident that Governor Pawlenty was merely playing lip service to college students and the higher education community in 2006.

I am not opposed to "trimming the fat". As the former chair of our statewide student association, our students strongly advocated for "trimming the fat" from the budgets, working to keep tuition increases as low as possible.

Now, Governor Pawlenty wants to take the axe to higher education as he works to gut it again.

Let's hope the strong DFL majorities in the House and the Senate can keep the cost of college affordable, despite the wishes of the Governor.

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