The potential effects of drastic cuts in Minnesota Republican higher education funding bills are beginning to make news in Greater Minnesota. Particularly damaging to students and employers alike? Cuts to MNSCU institutions, including tech colleges.
Southeast Technical feels the sting
The Reg Wing Republican Eagle reports in State budget cuts mean fewer services at technical college:
Minnesota lawmakers voted to cut $300 million from college and university spending as they craft a state budget while plugging a $5 billion deficit.
Opponents of the Republican-written bill said that some campuses are threatened and up to 1,500 higher education workers could lose their jobs if the bill becomes law.
Jim Johnson, president of Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical, said because over 80 percent of the college's budget goes to staffing, the cuts would definitely mean laying off employees.
"We will be looking at less staff, doing some layoffs, looking at how we can do things more efficiently," he said.
Bills passing the House and Senate Tuesday set a $2.5 billion two-year budget for state-run colleges and universities. That is down from $2.8 billion in the current budget.
The technical college would have to shave off about $1 million from its budget this year and another $1 million next year, Johnson said. . . .
But the GOP legislators say they're not hurting students by cutting funding to the public colleges and universities:
Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said his higher education bill allows schools to make up a third of their lost money by raising tuitions.
However, both the House and Senate bills place a limit on how much colleges and universities may raise tuition, ranging from 2 percent to 5 percent.
Both bills increase funds for grants available to students attending public and private schools.
"We did preserve a lot for the students," Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, said.
However, Johnson said the tuition cap puts the technical college, which has campuses in Red Wing and Winona, in a hard place. He said in the past, the college has been able to make up for cuts in state money by raising tuition. Because of the cap, that wouldn't be possible, and the college would have to cut services more.
"Whenever you're looking at downsizing, you like to have as much flexibility," Johnson said. He said the cap on tuition would really "hamstring" the college.
Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said the state budget cuts are the deepest he has seen to higher education.
The cuts come at a time when the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system serves 40,000 more students than a decade ago, with less state money than it received then. The University of Minnesota, with 12,000 more students, also would get less money than 10 years ago.. . .
The failing logic of the privatizers: "high aid, high tuition" = high debt, high barriers
The Republican logic follows the line of the "high-aid, high tuition" model that has not lived up to its promises.
Back in the day, Minnesota's public technical schools were known as vo-techs, and the post-secondary education they afforded to students was essentially free. That's because the guiding philosophy in those days was to fund the institution, making school as affordable as possible. While not free, going to school at what was known as Mankato State was a lot cheaper for my brother than my sister's classes at Gustavus were.
Of course, this sort of arrangement couldn't last. Enter one of the most boneheaded, longterm policy decisions ever: the introduction of "high aid, high tuition" for public post-secondary institutions. If these schools cost more, the logic want, they'd have to get better in order to "compete," and if the funding went to the students (ah, a little conservative voucher love), then the marketplace for education rather than government would make everything peachy, and the benefits of higher education would flower through the land.
Fat chance. While public institutions receive less of their money from the legislature, financial aid, other than loans, didn't increase, while student aid itself took on shades of "welfare." And so more roadblocks go up on access to higher education, one of the avenues to the middle class and cradles for American ingenuity.
Mankato presidents feel students' pain
In the Mankato Free Press, Minnesota State University-Mankato president Richard Davenport and South Central College president Keith Stover spell out more problems with the axe-murdering bills in No matter the enrollment, cuts hurt:
Because we have fewer faculty members and more students, our class sections are larger. This means that students who need personal attention must wait longer to see their professors. Some students won’t or can’t wait, reducing the quality of their education.
Because we have fewer faculty members, we are offering fewer sections of classes. This means students have fewer opportunities to get the courses they need to graduate, and some must delay graduation.
We have cut some academic programs, which gives current students fewer choices and turns some prospective students away from higher education. We have fewer student services staff members, which delays financial aid processing, advising and other needed services, as well as reduces the extracurricular activities and the life experiences that we can provide to students.
Over the last decade state support for higher education has consistently declined, shifting greater financial burden to students.
These impacts on students do not help the state to recover from the recession. Each student who can’t get personal attention is a future employee who’ll need more on-the-job training. Each student who must delay graduation is a person who doesn’t contribute to the economy this year. Each student who quits college is a potential loss to business and industry.
A lost generation on the prairie?
And in Marshall, Worthington and other towns served by Southwest Minnesota State University and the network of five small campuses that make up Minnesota West, the talk is of closing and consolidating campuses.
MPR's Tim Post reported in MnSCU studying potential for campus consolidation:
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system is studying the potential for consolidation and alignment among some of its schools in southwestern Minnesota.
MnSCU officials will hold a public forum Tuesday night at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall to get input from residents on the educational needs of the region.
MnSCU's spokeswoman Melinda Voss said the study corresponds with the retirement of Southwest State's president, along with the changing demographics in the region.
"We just really want to identify the key higher education programs and services that are needed by this region now and in the future and the most efficient way to deliver those things," Voss said.
The Marshall Independent reported in Study to determine regional higher ed needs:
"Some students need face time, but only a small percentage," [MNSCU consultant] Thompson said. "But some places have been trimmed down so much already that they're working with a skeleton crew. Some people might be wearing 10 hats already."
So as the population drain from the prairie continues, the cycle will speed up as opportunities for education and employment shrink.
Tim Pawlenty Memorial Berm: MNGOP legislative majorities hold back rising tides of higher ed
Year after year, the news from Minnesota isn't good. It's so bad after eight years of Pawlenty, that the Iowa Democratic Party issued a statement in advance of T-Paw's tiger-bloodless pandering to the Iowa College Republicans last week explaining the Pawlenty record that the current Republican Senate and House Caucus seem determined to top with their own anti-prosperity berms.
That record includes:
UNDER PAWLENTY, HIGHER EDUCATION IN MINNESOTA COST MORE BUT DELIVERED LESS
2008: “Students Are Leaving Minnesota Colleges With Record Debt,” With 2008 Minnesota Graduates Shouldering The Sixth-Highest Average Debt In The Nation. [Star Tribune, 12/1/09]
2008 Minnesota Office Of Higher Education Report: “Minnesotans Pay Twice As Much As The National Average To Get A Public College Education, But They’re Not Getting Double The Results.” [Star Tribune, 3/13/08]
- Star Tribune: “For A State Where High Schools Students Traditionally Fare Well On College Entrance Exams, That’s Disconcerting To Those In Charge Of Assessing The Quality Of Higher Education In Minnesota.” [Star Tribune, 3/13/08]
- Only 36.7 Percent Of College-Bound Students Graduate In Four Years And “Only Five Of The State’s 36 Four-Year Schools – Public Or Private – Had A Four Year Graduation Rate Of Better Than 70 Percent.” [Star Tribune, 3/13/08]
- Only 20 Percent Of Black College-Bound Students Graduate In Four Years And More Than Half Didn’t Graduate Within Six Years. [Star Tribune, 3/13/08]
AS A RESULT OF PAWLENTY’S CUTS TO HIGHER EDUCATION, TUITION HAS INCREASE BY 60 PERCENT
Minnesota 2020 Economic Policy Fellow: Under Pawlenty, “State General Fund Support For Higher Education Has Declined By $521 Million… As A Result, Tuition Has Risen By A 60 Percent Real-Dollar Average Across Minnesota’s Higher Education Institutions.” [Lee Egerstrom op-ed, Bemidji Pioneer, 10/24/10]
2010: Pawlenty Proposed Cutting $47 Million From Higher Education, But Said He Would Have Liked To Cut More – And Claimed “They Got Off Relatively Easy Here.” [Star Tribune, 2/16/10]
2009: Pawlenty’s “Hit To Higher Education [Was] Big” When He Unilaterally Cut Minnesota’s Higher Education Budget By $100 Million. [Star Tribune, 6/16/09]
- University Of Minnesota President Called Pawlenty’s Proposed Cuts “Savage And Severe.” [Minnesota Public Radio, 5/16/09]
Photo: Shuttered building. Will there be a closing of the Minnesota mind?