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GUEST COMMENTARY: BSU needs legislators to step up

Derek Webb

With only a few weeks left in the legislative session, BSU finds itself in a very precarious position. Both the short-term health of our university and the long-term health viability of our state college and university system are at stake. A decade of declining investment in the state's colleges and universities has led to deep cuts across the system and we need Sen. Justin Eichorn, Rep. Matt Bliss, and legislative republican majorities to work with the governor to increase funding for state colleges and universities back to historical levels. Failure to take action may, in the short term, result in reductions in course offerings and reductions in faculty, staff, and administrative positions. These reductions can reduce opportunities for students to succeed. In the long term, this disinvestment will threaten Minnesota's ability to meet the future workforce needs of Minnesota.

Minnesota State universities provide an opportunity for students to create a better future for themselves, their families, and their communities. It is estimated by as early as next year, 70% of all jobs will require some post-secondary education. So whether it is business professionals and entrepreneurs or nurses and mechanics, our state colleges and universities play an essential role in ensuring Minnesota maintains its well-earned asset of a highly educated citizenry. It's a role we take great pride in and a responsibility we take seriously.

Thirteen years ago, the Legislature funded two-thirds of the cost of instruction at a public university or college. Students were responsible for the remaining third. This established an accessible stepping-stone to the middle class for all Minnesotans. But as funding for public higher education was cut from 2002-2013 that first step grew out of the reach of many middle class families. By 2013, students in Minnesota were responsible for two-thirds of the cost of their education. This was an epic change in state support for higher education and it was reflected in an 88 percent tuition increase at the state universities and a 112 percent tuition increase at the University of Minnesota between 2002 and 2014. Beginning in 2013, the Legislature began to reinvest in higher education and through your continued support progress has been made.

However, there is still much to be done to get back to the historical funding model for higher education in the state, as we still are below the national average in state support per student.

Gov. Dayton's budget proposal will protect quality, accessibility, and affordability at Minnesota State colleges and universities. A state's budget is a real world reflection of a state's priorities; it is as simple as that. We need the budget to reflect the priority that we as a state have always placed on higher education. We need Sen. Eichorn and Rep. Bliss to work with the governor to invest in our campus and reduce the burden on students and families that has led to an unsustainable rise in student debt.

Derek Webb,

BSU Faculty Association president; professor of mathematics and statistics