MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone at his installation ceremony Wednesday, October 19, 2011, in the State Capitol Rotunda.

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Lori Sturdevant: Reflections on a chancellor's installation

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT
  • Star Tribune
  • October 19, 2011 - 7:46 PM

New MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone had already told the distinguished Capitol audience assembled  Wednesday morning to witness his installation that courage would be among his guiding values. 

He displayed as much moments later, as he delivered a strong message to Gov. Mark Dayton and the handful of listening legislators.

“I’m deeply worried about the darkest cloud in the educational sky – the shifting of costs from the state to students,” Rosenstone said. “People across Minnesota have expressed concern that this trend is pricing students out of college, and ultimately, out of a job. The stark reality is that state funding per student, in constant dollars, has been cut 48 percent since 2000.”
Actually, the slide in state support for higher education goes back a full 20 years, according to a new report by the Minnesota Private College Research Fund. It  examines state higher education spending as a share of the state’s gross domestic product – in other words, with Minnesota’s economy.
That share has been on the skids since attaining a peak of 0.93 percent in 1991, and now sits at 0.54 percent.
That nearly matches the share of the state’s economy devoted to public higher education in the 1960s, when the first baby boomers were college students  and far fewer jobs required college-level training. 
MnSCU’s soaring enrollment  -- projected to surpass 420,000 this year – demonstrates that Minnesotans consider higher education crucial to their personal economic security. They’re stretching to handle the larger cost burden they’ve been asked to bear.
But state government ought to better realize that keeping higher education affordable is also crucial to the state’s collective economic security.
Minnesota’s two-year colleges have the third-highest tuition in the nation. The state’s financial aid system shortchanges the growing ranks of part-time, older learners.
Rosenstone badly wants those two realities to change. He’ll need the help of the lawmakers and business leaders who cheered his installation to make it happen.
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Lori Studevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.

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