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Pioneer Cheers & Jeers

Plan has noble goals

Next Monday, students return to Bemidji State University for fall classes.

Over the past several years, students have shoulder the burden of higher tuition, a discouraging trend considering the costs of higher education continues to increase.

In 2010, BSU graduates who borrowed money had a student loan debt of $19,750 – a whopping $3,000 more than the average for graduates across the Minnesota State College and University system. BSU also has the highest tuition rate among the seven four-year McSCU schools.

At Northwest Technical College, graduating students had a debt load of $14,031.

In a meeting today with faculty, Martin Tadlock, the newly hired BSU provost and vice president of academic affairs, plans to recommend five areas of focus as part of the school’s “New Normal” plan.

This collaborative plan, currently under development, will aim to address constraints faced by the institution, including financial sustainability, rapid changes in technology and rising tuition.

“We can’t continue to raise tuition,” Tadlock said. “Everyone knows we are at the break point where people can’t afford to continue to have tuition go up.”

It’s good to hear BSU administrators recognize the burden facing students while at the same time enriching their lives by giving them experiences and opportunities for success once they leave campus.

Tadlock said BSU needs to emphasize internships, studying abroad and developing community connectivity for students and faculty with Bemidji residents.

Those are noble and valuable goals which become even more challenging considering the economics.

A new look

The Paul Bunyan State Trail bridge over Highway 197 is a welcome addition for recreational enthusiasts.

It provides a 12-foot walkway with concrete deck, handrails and architectural details to match the bridge over the Mississippi River.

The impressive span, with a 200-foot midsection, will provide a safer environment for outdoor activities.

But the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources needs to address the color scheme of the signs affixed to both sides of the bridge.

The large black and green signs are difficult to make out against the bridge’s brown background, making it nearly impossible to clearly read the words or make out Paul Bunyan’s image. 

State should step up

State lawmakers meet later this week to discuss disaster funding after a turbulent summer left quite a mark throughout northern Minnesota.

So far, officials from Beltrami, Cass and Itasca counties, along with American Indian tribes, have tabulated more than $3 million in damages from severe storms and flooding.

Local lawmakers, including Sen. John Carlson and Rep. John Persell, have been advocates for the region, pushing colleagues to include disaster relief for the area.