It’s not the time to start cutting millions from colleges and universities

Don Heinzman
ECM Editorial Writer

At a time when America needs highly educated college graduates to work in the think tanks and laboratories of the future, this is no time to increase tuition expenses.

Tuitions for students attending public Minnesota colleges and universities will be increased next year if cuts in proposed spending by the House, Senate and the governor are approved in this session of the Legislature.

In total, higher education in Minnesota could be cut by $411 million during the next biennium, according to some budget bills.

The proposed cut for the University of Minnesota for the next two years in the Senate bill would be $141 million from the current funding and $243 million from the forecast base written into law.

The House bill calls for a two-year cut of $125 million over current funding and $227 million of the forecast base.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal, calls for an increase of  $24.8 million over current funding and a reduction of $77 million from the forecast base.

The public colleges and universities do not fare any better.  The House bill calls for a 16 percent reduction, the Senate 13 percent and the governor, 6 percent.

Republicans would also place a 5 percent cap on tuition increases that would make it even harder for administrators of colleges and universities.

To soften the blow, the House would increase state grants by $27 million for low and moderate income students; the Senate would increase the grants by $7 million.

At the University of Minnesota,44.7 percent of students receive some need-based aid.

The proposed reductions would result in more faculty being laid off, which would mean fewer classes offered, thereby lengthening the time for students to get their degrees.

The classic argument of House and Senate Republicans is: these cuts are necessary to close the budget gap and raising taxes is not an option for them.

Gov. Dayton, while cutting less than the House and Senate proposes, taxing wealthier Minnesotans.

The basic issue is: How much should Minnesota invest in its students’ post-high school education.

Colleges and Universities will have to raise tuition to make up for the proposed cuts. Over the past 10 years as state aid has been cut tuitions have been going up.

In the Minnesota College system (MnSCU) back in the year 2000, the state paid two-thirds of the college costs ($549.3 million) and tuition revenue was one-third ($265 million).  This year tuition amounts to 57 percent ($789.6 million) and state aid 43 percent ($605.4 million)

As predicted, the MnSCU system average tuition has doubled from $2,186 in fiscal year 2000 to $4,803  in fiscal year 2011.

At Anoka Ramsey Community College, tuition and fees cost $4,550 for a student taking two semesters averaging 30 credits..  Book costs average $1140.

A University of Minnesota undergraduate including the university fee is paying $10,350. A five percent increase could mean another increase of $550.

A student at Anoka Technical College taking 30 credits a year is paying tuition of $4546.

When these costs are considered, it is time to let legislators know that cutting millions of dollars from colleges and universities is unacceptable at a time when students have to be educated to compete in a global economy.

Don Heinzman, former editor of the Star News in Elk River, is an editorial writer for ECM Publishers. His blog is posted on