MN Surplus: help support college students

Minnesota is seeing a massive budget surplus this year of $9.25 billion, and students participating in higher education deserve to see some of that money. 

Decades ago, Minnesota’s state legislature made a promise to schools in the system that two-thirds of the cost of attending one of their schools would be funded by the state, with the remaining third paid by the student. 

This promise was held for quite some time, but when a recession hits the economy, legislators are quick to lean on cutting higher education funding, citing that universities “have another source of income.”

These situations compound and compound until we run into our current scenario, where the funding roles have essentially flipped with students footing the majority of the bill. 

As legislators look to disperse the surplus, it is vital to analyze the costs of attending school during this time of inflation and COVID-related expenses that land heavily on students. 

This is especially interesting to examine when you look at the fact that the cost of attending higher education is putting students deeper and deeper in debt.

According to the Minnesota Department of Higher Education, the average yearly cost of attending a Minnesota State University in 1971 was $379, which, when adjusted for inflation, ends up being $2,630.99. When comparing this tuition price to last year’s, which was $8,807, it is easy to see the actual cost for students is rising and has not stopped rising. 

This is not just ungrateful kids asking for money, but instead an investment that the state needs to make for the sake of Minnesota. 

According to the MSU website, the university creates $781.5 million in economic impact every year. This University alone employs several thousand employees as well as puts students into the workforce, generating higher tax revenue for the state. 

There is value in higher education, and the value has been forgotten from legislators who instead have chosen to put students further and further into debt rather than fostering an environment that creates financially stable graduates.

Of course there are programs available, like various loan forgiveness programs, but the problem with these is twofold: they are not well advertised to those struggling, and they aren’t enough.

With worsening inflation and the current situation with Russia invading Ukraine, it is becoming clear that another recession could be imminent, and the burden to pay for this should not, once again, fall on the shoulders of the students of Minnesota. 

Higher education funding has been taken for granted by lawmakers, who have time and time again chosen other areas to put tax dollars. The impact of this is showing. The average cumulative median debt for students graduating with a bachelor’s degree from MSU was $25,500 in 2020, according to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. 

Given a payback period of 10 years, that is roughly $261 a month, which can be a substantial financial burden on graduates. 

While it may not seem like the most pressing matter when looking to spend a surplus, it is crucial for legislators to look closely at higher education. Severely indebted graduates will contribute less to the Minnesota economy.

(Steve Karnowski/Associated Press)

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