The Star Tribune Editorial Board recently warned the public, when listening to political candidates, to “Be wary of promises to freeze tuition” (Oct. 12) at campuses in the Minnesota State system.
As the statewide voice for students attending our state’s community and technical colleges, our association knows students need as many tools as possible at their disposal to keep tuition from increasing. Even the system’s chancellor agrees that we have reached a limit on what we ask of students and their families when he spoke with the Star Tribune last year.
Students at our two-year colleges pay the third-highest tuition and fees in the nation. This is due to the fact that Minnesota spends 36 percent less than the national average on its community and technical colleges. Minnesota has pushed too much of the cost of education onto students and their families, and this is having a real impact on students’ financial security and the overall economy of the state.
The Legislature has recognized that affordability is a major problem by reducing tuition by 1 percent for community and technical colleges during the last biennium. This tuition cut is a great start, but more needs to be done.
Even with all of these facts, the Editorial Board still advocates against the one protection students have from increasing tuition. History tells us that the governing board of the system will raise tuition, regardless of state appropriation. We agree with the Editorial Board’s position that the state should increase funding to the Minnesota State system. These funds could be used not to maintain the status quo, but instead to make tuition more affordable and support needed reforms to improve student success on our campuses.
Our association has often been the leading advocate for much-needed reform, because students have consistently told us that they pay too much and often don’t get the services they need to be successful. We believe the people of Minnesota deserve a public higher education system that spends every dollar wisely and gets results.
Our community and technical colleges are the access point to higher education for Minnesotans in every region of our state. For most of our students, the choice is not between attending a private institution or a state university, but between the local college and not attending at all. In order for us to meet our workforce needs, it’s imperative that our colleges become more affordable for all Minnesotans and that the cost of attendance not be a barrier.
We wish the Editorial Board would use its microphone to advocate the needed reform — not to criticize lawmakers who have given students a break from the annual tradition of tuition increases.
Dylan Kelly is president of the Minnesota State College Student Association.