The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s historic takeover of the state House and Senate could be a big win for higher education in the state and the University of Minnesota.
At a time when student loan debt is precarious and students have endured tuition increases year after year, students at public colleges all over Minnesota could use an extra boost from the state.
Last year, the Republican-controlled state Legislature gave the University its lowest allocation in 10 years. Since 2001, the University has received the most funding during years when Democrats controlled both houses.
University officials say this has more to do with the economy than the party in power. Still there’s an opportunity to make a strong case for more state support through the U’s DFL allies in the Legislature like Phyllis Kahn, Kari Dziedzic and Alice Hausman — who represent University-area districts.
Top DFLers have said their first priority in the upcoming session will be the state budget, and the University has a huge stake in that conversation.
Experts told the Minnesota Daily earlier this week that the University will have to compete with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system for more state funding. MnSCU’s Board of Trustees approved its $1.2 billion budget request Tuesday. It’s asking for $97 million more over two years. Likewise, the University is asking for $91.6 million more in state support.
While both systems may be in competition for more state funds, they wouldn’t have to be if members of the state Legislature understood the immense and unique benefits each institution provides to the state. Investing more in higher education as a whole — including both the University and MnSCU — should be a priority for our lawmakers as they work to balance the state budget.