To the editor:
Over the next few days, Governor Mark Dayton and state legislators will work to reach agreement on a plan to address our $5 billion budget deficit. As part of their "all cuts" plan, Republicans have proposed the deepest cuts in state history to higher education. If enacted, funding for public colleges and universities will be returned to the 1998 level, despite the fact they are educating 50,000 additional students. The result for students will be more tuition hikes, higher debt, and reduced class and programs options; staff and faculty face possible unemployment.
As a result of repeated cuts over the past few years, colleges statewide have already been forced to make difficult choices. Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall has reduced faculty and staff positions, and reduced funds for information technology operating budgets by 40 percent and their operating budget by nearly 9 percent - at the same time utility costs have increased by over 30 percent.. What's next for this regional economic driver?
Communities and citizens will pay, too. By the year 2018, Minnesota employers will have an estimated 900,000 job openings. Most will be created by our aging population, while others call for new technology and skills to compete in our global marketplace. The majority of these jobs will require at least some postsecondary education; many will require advanced degrees and training in new technologies.
If we continue to make deep cuts to higher education, how can our state possibly meet the workforce demands of the future?
We must 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 Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
Sheila Wright, Ph.D.
Director, Office of Higher Education