The U Slips and the State Suffers
Or, Don’t Worry, Be Happy
A concerned U of M graduate, who recently sent a son to college out of state, writes in the Strib today:
By Brian Rice
Recently, the Star Tribune reported good news for Carleton College when StateUniversity.com "quietly slipped" the Northfield school in at No. 15 in its ranking of the best 2,000 universities in the country. What was not reported was the bad, even ominous, news that the University of Minnesota ranked 199th in the same survey -- a ranking that places the university 10th out of the 11 schools in the Big Ten (add Penn State). This is very sobering news considering that on the same day a report from the Federal Reserve indicated that Minnesota has the highest unemployment rate in the upper Midwest, trailing only Michigan.
Minnesotans have long lived with the myth that the U is an elite academic institution and that our employment trends are always better than other states. Neither are truisms today.
The rankings that StateUniversity.com made of institutions of higher learning are not an anomaly. Two years ago, U.S. News & World Report ranked Minnesota tied for ninth among the Big Ten schools. This year, the same U.S. News report ranks the U seventh. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has consistently ranked higher than the University of Minnesota in these surveys, and that state is doing better than ours in other economic measures as well. What is going on?
My father served in the Legislature for 26 years and worked for Gov. Karl Rolvaag for four years. He was also a graduate of the U of M. To him, the university was sacred. He understood, perhaps better than my generation, that as the university goes, so goes the state. Somewhere along the way, the people who govern our state have lost sight of an asset that is as precious to our economic and cultural climate as its water and air are to our health. Institutions of higher education and the University of Minnesota specifically are the engines that drive the mind and every idea, invention, product and thought that springs from there. That truly is our hope for a better future.
Our state is faced with yet another budget crisis and another round of cutting and retrenchment. Somewhere in those many crises that have occurred over the last 30 years, I can't help but think that decisions have been made that in the long run diminish this great state that we know as Minnesota.
Brian F. Rice, a Minneapolis attorney and 1982 University of Minnesota Law School graduate, is active in political and community affairs.
Meanwhile OurCEO continues to sing the same old song, the one made famous by an émigré from the Twin Cities, Bobby McFerrin, former conductor of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra: