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Higher enrollment doesn't offset deep budget cuts
A March 31 Free Press article incorrectly implied that higher enrollment at colleges and universities means that deep higher education budget cuts are more manageable, even though we have planned for these cuts. Deep cuts in a time of increasing enrollment threaten to dilute the higher education experience, creating serious long-term consequences for Minnesota.
By Richard Davenport, President, Minnesota State University, Mankato, and Keith Stover, President, South Central College [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 4/2/2011]
A March 31 Free Press article (“College enrollment aids in surviving cuts,” Page B1) implied that higher enrollment at our colleges and universities means that deep higher education budget cuts are more manageable, even though we have planned for these cuts.
Deep cuts in a time of increasing enrollment threaten to dilute the higher education experience, creating serious long-term consequences for Minnesota.
We and other higher education institutions are working hard to do more with less. Over the last two years both Minnesota State University, Mankato and South Central College have reduced our budgets by millions of dollars in anticipation of the current state deficit, reducing faculty, staff and programs.
We have cut non-academic programs as well, and Minnesota State is now considering eliminating four sports teams.
Despite the reductions, faculty and staff at both institutions continue to strive for high-quality education. But even their best efforts cannot counter all of the negative effects of deep cuts.
Because we have fewer faculty members and more students, our class sections are larger. This means that students who need personal attention must wait longer to see their professors. Some students won’t or can’t wait, reducing the quality of their education.
Because we have fewer faculty members, we are offering fewer sections of classes. This means students have fewer opportunities to get the courses they need to graduate, and some must delay graduation.
We have cut some academic programs, which gives current students fewer choices and turns some prospective students away from higher education. We have fewer student services staff members, which delays financial aid processing, advising and other needed services, as well as reduces the extracurricular activities and the life experiences that we can provide to students.
Over the last decade state support for higher education has consistently declined, shifting greater financial burden to students.
These impacts on students do not help the state to recover from the recession. Each student who can’t get personal attention is a future employee who’ll need more on-the-job training. Each student who must delay graduation is a person who doesn’t contribute to the economy this year. Each student who quits college is a potential loss to business and industry.
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system will continue to educate Minnesota’s citizens. But, deep cuts to higher education will have a long-term impact on Minnesota’s future business, industry, and government leaders and the economy.
For the online guest editorial, click on http://mankatofreepress.com/letters/x300770658/In-Response-No-matter-the-enrollment-cuts-hurt