Minnesota begins to re-invest in affordable higher education

Last year, Minnesota made some much-needed improvements in affordable higher education by restoring some of the funding cut during the Great Recession, according to a new report. After years of severe cuts, policymakers have begun to re-invest in our state’s students and increasing access to an affordable college education. But we haven’t undone all the damage and are still spending 24 percent less on our college students than before the recession.

States Are Still Funding Higher Education Below Pre-Recession Levels from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed funding and tuition levels for public colleges and universities in all 50 states before and after the recession. It found that most states – including Minnesota – made severe cuts to higher education funding during the recession.

Between 2008 and 2014, Minnesota reduced higher education funding by almost $2,200 per student. In response, tuition and fees at public colleges and universities rose by $1,700 per student.

According to the report, “large funding cuts have led to both steep tuition increases and spending cuts that may diminish the quality of education available to students at a time when a highly educated workforce is more crucial than ever to the nation’s economic future.”

Even though states are beginning to restore some of the lost funding, the study found that higher education funding remains well below pre-recession levels in nearly all states, including Minnesota.

The report highlights Minnesota’s investments last year to make college more affordable. Policymakers increased funding for financial aid for low- and middle-income students, and froze tuition at the University of Minnesota and MnSCU.

These investments will strengthen Minnesota’s economy and workforce. And the need is clear. By 2018, Minnesota’s employers are expected to require one of the most highly educated workforces in the nation, with 70 percent of jobs needing some education beyond high school.

Minnesota made important strides last year in higher education, but the work is not done. We are still spending much less on our college students than before the recession. Our state has a way to go to build the top-notch workforce our businesses require and ensure that all Minnesotans can enter the path to success that higher education offers.

-Caitlin Biegler

About Clark Goldenrod

Clark Goldenrod is the Minnesota Budget Project's policy analyst.
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