Cuts to education would devastate

Published 9:07 am Thursday, April 7, 2011

I would like to thank everyone who attended the town hall meeting in Albert Lea on Sunday for a discussion of the state’s budget crisis and how it will impact our communities.

I was especially pleased to hear the broad agreement among those gathered that the economic future of the Albert Lea region depends on the strength and responsiveness of Riverland Community College.

While a shortage of workers may be difficult to comprehend in today’s job market, this is the future we face. Baby boomers will soon begin to retire at historic levels, and companies face a growing need for workers trained in the new technologies. The decisions we make today will determine whether or not Minnesota is prepared to meet this unprecedented demand for jobs in the future.

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This growing need for educated and trained workers is why the cuts to higher education brought forward by the legislative majority are so devastating. Riverland Community College alone would lose an additional $4.3 million, limiting its resources at a time when we need them the most.

In comparison, Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal is a balanced approach to supporting both our colleges and our students. The governor asks higher education to share in addressing our state deficit, but in a responsible manner that will not do irrevocable harm to the academic core of our postsecondary institutions. We want to position our colleges and universities to prepare citizens for the jobs of the future and re-educate today’s workers for new opportunities.

We can never lose sight of the fact that our jobs, our schools and our communities depend on strong and vibrant employers, who in turn depend on colleges such as Riverland. Throughout the lifespan, we must strengthen and keep our commitment to education. Our future depends on it.

I encourage the citizens of the Albert Lea area to stay involved in this important debate.

Sheila Wright


Office of Higher Education