Is it really the case that we Minnesotans now value college education less than the rest of the country?

  • Blog Post by: Bill Gleason
  • March 29, 2011 - 8:28 AM


Oliver Twist asking for more

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In the University of Minnesota's mad scramble to stop the bleeding a provocative op-ed has appeared by my esteemed colleague, history professor Giancarlo Casale.  I urge people to read his important post.

[Prior to the Casale post, I had earlier examined this hypothesis in the post  Subsidy for Education and Related Expenses - 2008 data - for 50 Flagship Universities.  The data is behind a firewall unless one is a paying subscriber so I have transcribed it below.]

In this Star-Tribune op-ed Casale asks a provocative question that I believe has to  be answered in the negative: Minnesota seems to be abandoning its commitment to flagship university. Is it really the case that we Minnesotans now value college education less than the rest of the country?

In order to start a discussion on the matter - in which I will not participate because of the recent intellectual equivalent of drive by shootings - I offer the following:


From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
March 13, 2011

Education Financing for Major Public Universities: Which Ones Get the Most and the Least

The Chronicle chose one large public research institution per state—often the flagship—and examined its subsidy for education and related expenses per student in 2008, the most recent year for which those data have been reported. This figure is the share of educational spending not covered by tuition. For many but not all flagships, state appropriations finance a significant portion of this subsidy. 
Subsidy for education and related expenses per student, 2008
U. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
U. of Washington*
U. of California at Berkeley
U. at Buffalo
U. of Nevada at Reno
U. of Texas*
U. of Hawaii—Manoa
U. of Minnesota—Twin Cities
U. of Alaska*
U. of Michigan at Ann Arbor
U. of Wyoming
U. of Tennessee*
U. of Connecticut*
Ohio State U.*
U. of Florida
U. of Utah
U. of Arkansas main campus*
U. of Iowa
U. of North Dakota*
Rutgers U.*
U. of Kansas
U. of Wisconsin at Madison
U. of Arizona
U. of Idaho
U. of Massachusetts*
U. of Delaware
Louisiana State U.
U. of Virginia
U. of South Dakota
U. of Kentucky
U. of Maryland at College Park
U. of Missouri*
U. of Nebraska at Lincoln/Omaha*
U. of Alabama*
U. of New Mexico/New Mexico State U.*
U. of Mississippi*
U. of Oklahoma at Norman
U. of Vermont
U. of Illinois*
Indiana U. at Bloomington
U. of Maine*
U. of Georgia
U. of South Carolina at Columbia
West Virginia U.
U. of Montana*
U. of Oregon
U. of Rhode Island
U. of New Hampshire*
Pennsylvania State U.*
U. of Colorado at Boulder**
There is something very wrong here, although the interpretation of the numbers is complex and this was pointed out in a subsequent article.  But the trend is clear and Minnesota is far from the lowest in state support for higher education.  Even President Bruininks has admitted this. For fiscal year 2011 state monies provided for higher education in Minnesota were: $1,381,065,000. This ranked ~18/50 for all states. The comparable number in Wisconsin is $1,363,029, 136.  [The last I heard UW-Madison is cleaning our clock both in academics and in other less important matters such as football and basketball.  One might ask why but that is a different topic.] Again it is clear that the claim that Minnesota values higher education less than the rest of the country is false. Nitpickers may find fault with any set of numbers I might provide, but the evidence is overwhelming. To argue that Minnesota is worse than any state in the nation has about as much credibility as climate denialism.
In the op-ed we found a disclaimer: "I am not an expert on state finances or budgetary policy." It behooves some of those on the faculty at the University of Minnesota to start asking some serious questions. A history professor  is certainly capable of understanding basic economics.
Whining without justification simply is no longer acceptable. This is one of the main problems of the current university administration.
Playing Oliver Twist and asking for "More?" is a failed strategy. Hard  facts about the cost of education, how unreimbursed research costs are funded, and the outrageous costs for administration need to be provided. Minnesota citizens have a right to expexct that tuition increases are used for educational purposes and not to support unreimbursed research expenses, the cost of new - and unnecessary - buildings, or grandiose schems for the University of Minnesota to become one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]. Once Minnesotan's are made aware of the actual cost of education and assured that this is, indeed, our first priority, will we be in a position to ask for "More?" Unreimbursed research expenses and the source of funds to pay for them must be made explicit. Since even the current majority party seems to believe in research and development, explicit funding for these activities should be sought at the legislature.   The bloated cost of administration is beyond dispute.
Trying to pin the blame for this situation on Minnesota citizens, because they don't properly value  education, is an unfair and losing proposition. The citizens of the state, some of whom are literally -  not figuratively - hungry, will not be very sympathetic.

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