Critical funding need for higher education

The first in her family to attend college, Karen Beltran Lopez plans to graduate from Minneapolis College in spring 2024 and then pursue a career as a software developer. She has big goals, but it wasn’t always that way.

Karen started taking college classes several years ago. She “wanted to finish,” but also had to support herself. She worked two jobs for a while, and she stopped attending classes. Once she had a higher paying job a few years later, she discovered Minneapolis College, and the time was finally right.

Too many students like Karen are forced to give up their dreams in order to pay their bills. That is why Minneapolis College delivers affordable higher education options that support students, employers, communities and taxpayers. Our mission is to provide access to the transformative power of education, yet this has been increasingly difficult in recent years.

Since 1995, despite repeated requests to the Minnesota Legislature, the share of the state’s General Fund committed to higher education has fallen by 47%. The most recent supplemental budget request submitted to the Legislature included funding for campus operational support and an undergraduate tuition freeze. Although there was a $9 billion state budget surplus, the session ended without funding for higher education.

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For students forced to put their education on hold due to increased tuition, this may have been a life-changing moment. As president of Minneapolis College, I find this profoundly disappointing.

Recently, Devinder Malhotra, chancellor of Minnesota State, and Roger Moe, chair of the Board of Trustees, visited Minneapolis College. They’ve been touring the state, meeting with community leaders and campus stakeholders about Minnesota State’s biennial budget request for the 2023 session. During their Minneapolis College visit, one brave student shared this:

Dr. Sharon Pierce

Dr. Sharon Pierce

“I want to get an education to make a better life for myself. If the tuition increases, I will have to make a choice. Working with a $350 budget, I need to choose to work my part time job to pay for my housing and food or for school.”

About half of Minneapolis College’s operating budget comes from tuition that students pay, the other half comes from funding from the Minnesota Legislature. With pressure on enrollments since the pandemic, and with inflationary operating costs, we are facing a budget deficit to cover our core programs and services.

Minnesota’s economic vitality depends on skilled workers. Student success at Minneapolis College is critical to eliminating equity gaps and producing this workforce. During the listening session, I heard strong support for the Minnesota State biennial budget request. We should never compromise on the success of our students or the vitality of our state’s economy.

Sharon Pierce is the president of Minneapolis College.