Hooray and hmmm in higher education


Best of times and the worst of times. MPR’s Tim Post reports the number of Minnesota high school graduates enrolling in college has reached an all-time high of 70.2 percent. He also reports that the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system will raise tuition next year by as much as 7.5 percent. 

The record number of students enrolling in college may be a sign of the dire economic times with many Minnesotans expanding their skills while unemployed or underemployed. But no matter what the reason, the more Minnesotans earning a degree in either a two- or four-year higher education institution is a good thing. Minnesota’s economy will only grow if we provide a highly trained workforce, and that will only happen if Minnesotans receive post-high school education.

That’s why it is unfortunate that Minnesota’s public institutions of higher education have been placed in a position where they have to raise tuition. In times like these, it would seem a simple decision on the part of state policy makers to kick the universities’ doors open and make sure everyone who wants to attend a higher education institution will be able to do so.

Unfortunately, we don’t know some key facts: How many potential students were turned away because they couldn’t afford the tuition? How many of the new students actually receive a degree or certificate?

The biggest question of all is: How much importance do Minnesota’s policymakers place on the value of higher education to our economy? If they value higher education, then they will make college more affordable. Then perhaps next year’s incoming class of freshmen will be bigger than this year’s class.