College tuition controls the right and smart thing to do
Tom Rukavina is chairman of the House of Representatives Higher Education and Work Force Development Committee.
The 2007-08 legislative session was marked by several achievements that moved Minnesota forward. Looking back, I’m confident one of the biggest accomplishments was the fight to make college more affordable for every Minnesota student.
Minnesota tuition began spiking in 2003 when the governor made $380 million in cuts to the University of Minnesota and to MnSCU (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities). After five years of crushing, double-digit tuition increases, the gap was closed with a 12.9 percent base funding increase last year.
However, a large cloud loomed entering the 2008 session because Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed $51 million in higher-education cuts for 2008-09 to close the state’s budget deficit.
We made a significantly smaller cut of $21.8 million, totaling less than half of what the governor had proposed. More important, we added language to the final bill to make sure the University of Minnesota and MnSCU couldn’t push the burden of cuts onto students through higher tuition or reductions of services. Their cuts largely must be made in administration and non-student affected areas.
As a result of these efforts, MnSCU recently announced plans for its lowest tuition increases this decade. State community and technical colleges and state universities can expect a 2 percent and 3 percent increase next year. After five years of increases nearly five times that, this is a significant step forward for Minnesota colleges and universities.
The University of Minnesota will set its tuition increases later this month, but due to legislative actions, it is not expected to increase tuition any more than originally planned.
Minnesota’s college students weren’t the only big winners this year.
The long-term economic interests of our state won as well. By staying committed to providing students with the best opportunity to get the education they deserve, we are preparing them to become valuable members of a world-class Minnesota work force. And that keeps our state healthy and prosperous for years to come.