Investment in education is an investment in southwest Minnesota pride

Star Herald guest editorial


At this exciting time of year, we have many occasions to celebrate the amazing success of our students, including scholarship ceremonies, awards banquets and commencement activities. 

These annual occasions exemplify our most valuable asset: an educated citizenry prepared to build the future prosperity of our communities and grow our competitive advantage.

What does this really mean?  As public post-secondary institutions we play a significant role in providing the educated workforce necessary for securing a bright future for our corner of the state. 

Each year Minnesota West and SMSU collectively serve nearly 14,000 degree-seeking students, and many more hundreds of individuals in training programs.

We encourage you to look around your towns where you will find our graduates employed as bankers, business owners, community leaders, farmers, trades men and women, teachers and more.

These productive community members once graced our classrooms, earned their degrees, and are now contributing tenfold back to the region as employees, employers and community leaders. 

The legislative session is just weeks away from completion. Legislators are considering many important investments, among them funding for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, which of course include our southwestern institutions, Minnesota West and SMSU.

Maybe you've heard about our funding request and maybe you've been wondering what it’s for and why it’s so important. If that’s the case, here’s what you need to know.

Our colleges and universities have two primary sources of funding: tuition from students and appropriations from the state of Minnesota. Thanks to the legislature and Gov. Dayton, we have frozen tuition for the last two years, making college a lot more affordable for students across 21,000 square miles we serve, in the towns of Canby, Marshall, Luverne, Worthington, Jackson, Pipestone, Granite Falls and Redwood Falls.

With the exception of a funding increase last session, over the past 15 years state support for higher education has been on a steep decline.

Since 1999 Minnesota has cut funding by 53 percent. In the past we led the nation when it came to supporting our state colleges and universities but now we lag far behind. Once we were 21 percent above the national average and now we’re 20 percent below. And with that, it has become increasingly difficult to continue to offer programs of study critical to our regional economy.

Our ability to offer these opportunities has never been more important, particularly in the growing fields of advanced manufacturing, industrial technology, healthcare and agriculture.

Within five years, fully 74 percent of the jobs in Minnesota will require some postsecondary credentials.

At a time when the demographics of the state are such that 70 percent of our growth will come from underserved populations, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is the only resource able to respond.

Our colleges and universities serve more first-generation students, more students of color and American Indian students, more low-income students, and more veterans than all of Minnesota’s other higher education options — combined.

So as you hear about all the many investments being considered this legislative session, we hope you will keep higher education in mind.

Making access to college possible for all Minnesotans, meeting the future workforce needs of Minnesota, and protecting our ability to deliver programs to make that happen – these are all things worthy of our investment in the southwest region of Minnesota, a place we are proud of and home to those we serve.

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