Missing: Talk about colleges

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 11, 2010 - 11:56 PM

The campaign trail hasn't given higher education much love.

Sure, candidates for governor might note the universities' role in research or community colleges' part in re-training the workforce.

But overall, "it's been quiet," said David Schultz, a Hamline University professor and political expert. "I'm surprised that in these times -- with high tuition and people out of work -- that there isn't more discussion about higher ed."

On his website, DFL candidate Mark Dayton promises more funding for all of education. At a recent debate, he bemoaned the loss of professors and the rise in tuition.

"We are going in the wrong direction," he said.

Schultz said Dayton's language reminds him of former Gov. Rudy Perpich, who spoke of using education -- from pre-K to adult learning -- to create a brainpower state. "This is almost a 2010 version," Schultz said.

Tom Emmer hasn't said much on the topic, minus a flub about the need to pass a Minnesota GI bill to fund higher education for families of fallen soldiers. That bill did pass -- in 2007.

His website doesn't mention colleges and universities, instead focusing on K-12 proposals. His campaign declined to comment on his stances or make him available for an interview Wednesday.

Independence Party candidate Tom Horner disputes that higher education hasn't been front-and-center in the campaign. "I certainly talk about it every place I go," he said.

He speaks about improving graduation rates and finding creative ways to lower tuition. But he's also broached a more difficult topic: redefining the roles of Minnesota's two public higher education systems.

"We need to make sure we're not allowing mission creep," Horner said. "We don't want to have the technical colleges becoming more like the community colleges and the community colleges becoming more like the four-years, and so on.

"I'm ready to have that discussion."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

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