In a recent debate on Lakeland Public Television, first-term Minnesota House District 10B state representative Joe Radinovich (DFL-Ironton) schooled his Republican opponent about the intent of the tuition freeze.
For his part, Lueck seemed oblivious to the government support for post-secondary vocational-technical education and college that helped his own generation succeed.
According to a history of the Minnesota Department of Education, written as a portion of a project undertaken by the Study Commission of the Council of Chief State School Officers and published in 1965, no tuition was charged for young people attending Minnesota's 19 post-secondary vocational-technical schools:
In 1945 the area vocational-technical schools were first authorized. The schools, which granted no degrees, were meant to fill the need of those who needed preparation for [j]obs in agriculture, home economics, health, office, distributive, trade and industrial, and technical occupations. The education is generally post high school in nature and is free to qualified persons under 21 years of age. Both graduates and nongraduates qualify, although every effort is made to persuade pupils to complete their high school education. In 1965, there were 19 such schools in operation and several additional cities had requested approval to operate such an institution. (page 26)
According to other sources, such as this history of Northland college in Thief River Falls, the state's "vo-tech" schools didn't begin charging tuition until the late 1970s. With the creation of the MNSCU system in the 1990s, the tech schools, community colleges and four-year state schools were merged, while tuition began to climb across the system and the U.
Dale Lueck, the endorsed Republican candidate in Minnesota House District 10B, graduated from high school in 1967. This was during a time when students could acquire additional jobs skills at the "vo-techs" without paying tuition. The government picked up the tab; moreover, college tuition was more affordable for those who sought college degrees.
Thus, there's more than a whiff of revisionist history in his remarks during the October 15 Lakeland Public Television debate about how government should be more involved in making post-secondary education affordable. Here's the video of Lueck's response:
There's a role for government there but it's limited. We have gotten ourselves into a huge potential crisis with the number of student loans that are out there right now. We need to back up here.
Jeez, maybe I'm dating myself but ah, not everybody went to college in my day and you know, a whole bunch of folks turned out okay. Some of the best and brightest went on to do all kinds of things.
Not to say that there's definitely a role for higher education but we need to back up and really look at this, because we've got people who graduate from college, a huge number, that aren't able to get a decent job, so why? Why, after four or six years, a huge debt, you're not marketable, just pouring more government into that, that's not a solution.
We've got the get to the root here and that is we've got to match those skill sets to the jobs out there and one those change, and we all know that happens, we've got to be able to bring 'em back to brush those skill sets up to what the technology demands today.
So I don't see, we've had enough government involvement atthis point now and we've set ourselves up for a huge, a another financial problem with the debt structures out there on our college students.
So a guy whose generation could acquire tuition-free technical training at government expense decries any additional government involvement--when the retreat by government from funding public post-secondary education is a major part of the issue.
It seems a heady brew of both boomer entitlement and boomer amnesia.
In a rebuttal, freshman incumbent Joe Radinovich schools his opponent about the problem:
I want to be very clear that we're not talking about student loans. what we're talking about is assitance to the colleges and universities to subsidize the tuition of Minnesota students.
So if you're a student from Crosby-Ironton and you want to go to the University of Minnesota, just a generation ago, the state picked up two-thirds of your tuition tab. Right now they pick up close to a third, maybe just over that because during the last two years, we insisted on a tuition freeze at in-state colleges and unversities.
Now, the idea is that we need to extend this freeze for a couple more years to bend that cost curve back down. It should be affordable to middle-class students to be able to go to college to educate themselves, to improve their situation and to join the economy in a functional way.
It's very important that we continue that progress.
Now in this last decade, because we refused to align the revenue with the expenses that we had, we neglected to keep up with our obiligation to educate our students and it's been a tax on middle class families. It's not a cut at the government level, it's a tax on middle-class families when they have to make up that difference.
Watch the entire debate here.
Screenshot: Joe Radinovich.
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