Legislative support for higher education critical

To the editor:

With the legislature and the governor on the cusp of jousting over the budget in the waning day of the session, I wanted to highlight that a good higher education bill that fully funds the base and inflation is very important to the short and long-term success of Southwest Minnesota State University as an economic engine for the region.

Thirteen years ago, the Minnesota legislature funded two-thirds of the cost of instruction at a public university or college, and today, that number has almost flip-flopped, with students assuming a majority of the cost. The result is that students are acquiring greater debt, which in turn causes life choice decisions that do not serve the public interest, like deferring marriage and children, buying a home, or not saving for retirement.

With SMSU, there is no question that a bad higher education bill will diminish the university’s capability to deliver a high quality education. This is relevant and critical to the region because a quality education translates into young adults who maintain a sense of community, and equally important, provides a well-trained and skilled workforce. That well trained and skilled work force correlates into higher wages, additional tax collection (from higher incomes), and increased per capita productivity.

Consequently, a good higher education bill out of this session will pay dividends in relation to our regional economic health.

I would encourage our local representatives to support higher education (and education generally) as a top priority. It is worth the investment, and more so, historically proven that an educated population is more important in relation to economic prosperity than any other single factor.

Doug Simon