Editorial Roundup: Support Minnesota State budget, tuition freeze

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2022

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The Minnesota State university system has unveiled a bold proposal to keep tuition in check and invest in labs and training aimed at meeting the huge demand for workers throughout the state.

But the tuition freeze has a price tag of about $75 million and is part of a larger budget request of $350 million to the Legislature that would go toward building labs and buying equipment to meet workforce needs and train students for jobs in demand.

Minnesota State Board of Trustees Chair Roger Moe knows the request is big and says the system has to “go all out.” The request dwarfs the $205 million the University of Minnesota is asking for.

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The best thing about the funding request is the tuition freeze, but the overall plan also calls for investing $100 million in labs and equipment for the 26-school system to react quickly to workplace job demands. The plan calls for its business and industry partners to match that money dollar for dollar.

And the second best part of the plan is that its effectiveness to grow jobs and meet the needs of employers will be specifically measured.

There’s another $125 million that will be needed over the two year budget period to shore up balance sheets and cover inflationary costs.

Minnesota State Chancellor called the budget request “bold and aggressive” and it surely is all of that. The Trustees have put forth the proposal with a kind of now or never premise. They argue this investment is appropriate now when the need for workers has never been higher and the state has a $9 billion surplus. They also note if the proposal is pared down, so too should the capacity of the system. That could include closing campuses that are at low capacity.

We believe that should be looked at in any case.

Minnesota has the third largest state college system in the country, bigger than many states with higher population. The system was built at a different time to establish the colleges as economic development drivers, especially for small communities. That may be a nice idea, but one that won’t be affordable in the future.

The system can point to successful programs in Mankato and around the state that quickly met the demands of new industries and new technologies. South Central College’s mechatronics program is a good example. And a recent effort to train certified nursing assistants for the needs of health care industry showed how quickly the system can train workers.

The Legislature should take a serious look at the Minnesota State proposal. More workers in good-paying jobs may be a good investment in growing future surpluses for Minnesota taxpayers.

— Mankato Free Press, Oct. 23

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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