Legislature must invest in Minnesota

As we rebuild our state's economy following the economic downturn, it's never been more important to support public higher education, which enables Minnesota to create and retain jobs. Modern, efficient facilities — with research and learning spaces suited for 21st-century innovations and industries — attract key faculty members and lucrative research funding that will propel Minnesota's economy forward.

Members of university research teams are racing to address the state's and the nation's most pressing challenges, including carp biologist Peter Sorensen, who conducts research on aquatic invasive species. He and his colleagues toil over holding tanks tucked in a small research lab on the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus to measure, reduce, control and potentially eradicate invasive species like Asian carp, zebra mussels and other threats that are destroying state lakes and streams.

This research has huge implications for Minnesota's $12.5 billion tourism industry (including the 245,000 jobs that depend on it). But in contrast to its importance, the research takes place in a century-old, ill-equipped tractor garage. Sorensen's laboratory is among the six projects that constitute the U's $232.7 million capital request for building and infrastructure improvements across all five campuses.

Investing in the U's facilities not only allows research teams to be more effective, it also better prepares our students for jobs with Minnesota companies like 3M, Ecolab, Boston Scientific, General Mills, Guidant and Medtronic.

A total of 19,754 undergraduates from the Twin Cities are now enrolled on our campuses, and many other metro-area students are knocking on the door as the U struggles to meet increased enrollment demands, especially in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. They are our state's future chemists, biochemists and biologists.

These are our top priorities, but we need policymakers' partnership and careful consideration of the U's capital request this legislative session.

Please ask your legislators to invest in Minnesota industry, students and their futures by supporting the University of Minnesota. Then register at so we can keep you informed during the legislative session.


The writer is a member of the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents.