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Hansen: Record Cuts to Higher Education Detrimental to Minnesota

Rick Hansen is the state representative for District 39A.

Minnesota has one of the most educated workforces in the country and it’s one of the many ways our state is attractive to businesses. Students who attend our public colleges and universities are more likely to stay in Minnesota, work in Minnesota, and raise a family in Minnesota. The research and work being done in our public colleges and universities in clean energy, robotics, health care and dozens of other fields has the potential to create thousands of new jobs, and even entirely new industries and technologies that we haven’t even thought of yet. 

The students at our MNSCU schools, like Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College, are our future leaders and entrepreneurs. We should be embracing these colleges and investing in our future, long-term economic growth, but the Republican majority chose to cut to our higher education system to 1999 levels.

Instead of asking millionaires to pay the same amount of taxes that middle class Minnesota families pay, legislative Republicans instead decided to balance the state budget on the backs of college students and their families.  That decision means that everything on campus will cost more this year—a tax that every student and their families is paying to solve the state budget deficit without even knowing it.

For some families and students, that hidden tax is enough to put college out of reach.  After all, a 5 percent tuition hike this year is piling on top of massive tuition hikes over the past 10 years.  It now costs nearly twice as much to go to college than it did just a decade ago.  For some, that’s simply too much.

This year, schools like Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College will educate more students in a more competitive 21st century economy, but will receive 20th century funding. Our colleges and universities are being asked to serve 40,000 more students with the same funding that they got in 1999. I voted against this extreme budget bill and it only passed on a strictly partisan vote.

Basically, our MNSCU students attending their first classes of the year on Aug. 22 are going to pay more under the Republican plan, but get a lot less. Because of the funding cuts handed down by the Republican legislature, colleges not only hiked tuition, but are also going to need to slash thousands of course offerings and admit fewer students. Foreign language programs could be slashed at a time when students need them to compete in a global marketplace. Entire majors could be eliminated in order to make up the funding gap.

At a time when unemployment among recent college graduates is already far too high, Republicans fought to protect 3,800 millionaires instead of protecting the 13,000 students on the Dakota County and Inver Hills campuses. Republicans decided that keeping corporate tax breaks in place was more important that keeping our students competitive in the 21st century global economy.

We will be a stronger Minnesota when we invest in a world class education system and create a state where all Minnesotans have the opportunity to succeed.

Please feel free to send me your comments, concerns and suggestions. You can reach me by phone at 651-296-6828 or email at rep.rick.hansen@house.mn. You can also send mail to my office, room 247 in the State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155.

Ken Coy August 18, 2011 at 02:01 PM
I'm looking forward to Mr. Hansen proposing a flat-rate income tax to the state legislature.
Mark J. Westpfahl August 18, 2011 at 05:01 PM
Representative Hansen, I am a little confused by some of your comments and would appreciate some clarification. You stated, "After all, a 5 percent tuition hike this year is piling on top of massive tuition hikes over the past 10 years. It now costs nearly twice as much to go to college than it did just a decade ago. For some, that’s simply too much." You've been serving in the House since 2004. So, under a DFL controlled House and Senate you are admitting that you were a big part of the problem in the rise of tuition costs in Minnesota, correct? You stated, "I voted against this extreme budget bill and it only passed on a strictly partisan vote." That is not the whole truth. Governor Mark Dayton, a member of your DFL party signed the bill into law. In this past session, you chief authored 14 bills, yet none of them mentions anything about higher education. In fact, none of the bills you co-authored mentions higher education either. So I figured I would go to your website to see what your stance on higher education really is. Low and behold, http://www.votehansen.com/positions.php, offers no insight as to how you feel about education in Minnesota, nor about proposed funding solutions you would recommend. More in my reply
Mark J. Westpfahl August 18, 2011 at 05:02 PM
So what are your recommendations to control the budget and reduce spending in Minnesota while still preserving the integrity of the higher education system, Mr. Representative? You stated, "Students who attend our public colleges and universities are more likely to stay in Minnesota, work in Minnesota, and raise a family in Minnesota." Yet in 2010, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce gave you only a 16% rating. What have you done to help local businesses so when students graduate from Institutions such as Inver Hills, they will be willing to stay in the community to work and raise their families? You again insinuate that taxing the richest Minnesotan's would all but eliminate the high costs associated with funding higher education; "Instead of asking millionaires to pay the same amount of taxes that middle class Minnesota families pay, legislative Republicans instead decided to balance the state budget on the backs of college students and their families." Would the extra taxes on the rich go directly into the higher education budget or the general fund? If it is the latter, how much of the new revenue would be devoted to higher education? I look forward to your clarifications. Mark J. Westpfahl Co-Chair SD39 Republicans
Ken Coy August 19, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Mark - Don't hold your breath.

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