From the Heartland: Not Just the Pornographic Beaver of Bemidji
Offending beaver, third from left
There has lately been a kerfuffle in Bemidji over some fiberglass beavers, art, and censorship that has been the subject of hard hitting journalism over at NewScut: Bemidji Takes a Stand.
Today a heartfelt editorial in the Bemidji Pioneer appeared. Perhaps it is as worthy of as wide dissemination as the beaver piece?
From the BP:
Pioneer Editorial: Election Issues -- Higher ed faces tuition challenges
Public higher education is an important commodity in Bemidji, what with Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College. The economic impact is huge to the community, let alone what institutions of higher learning bring to a small community like Bemidji in diversity, intellect and innovation.
Yet, the state has not been kind to higher education. It has felt the pinch of the budget ax as have the state's other programs during the Great Recession. In the case of higher ed, it started even before the recession as the state has steadily decreased the percentage it pays versus student-paid tuition. Students today carry massive debt loads, forcing them to complete their degree in five, six or more years as they work to pay tuition.
Students at MnSCU community and technical institutions will pay an average of 4.4 percent more in tuition and fees for the 2010-11 school year and students at the state universities 4.8 percent more. It means the state's portion has dropped from covering 66 percent of the cost in 2002 to 43 percent this year. Likewise, U of M students will see an average 4.4 percent increase.
Financial aid is available, but not near enough to guarantee access to higher ed to all who seek it.
BSU has struggled with multimillion-dollar budget cuts, and will see more in the future if adequate resurfaces aren't provided by the 2011 Legislature to close the gap between state appropriations and tuition. But with a possible $5.8 billion and more state budget deficit, policy makers will need to make tough decisions.
The delivery of higher ed is changing -- the use of Internet teaching is on the rise and will play an important role for people working and unable to attend day classes. Still, the infrastructure is needed, from science labs to music halls to business computer labs. Not all teaching can be done by the Net; face-to-face classroom time still relevant and necessary.
Also, during a recession, more people are seeking higher ed to improve their status for the next career they seek, and state resources must be there to support that effort. Higher tuition will only discourage people from doing so.