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Assistant Majority Leader Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) today introduced legislation to freeze tuition at Minnesota's public colleges and universities. Hortman said that the bill was necessary because of skyrocketing increases in tuition over the past five years.
"Since 2001, the cost of attending a MnSCU school has increased 70% on average," she said. "Minnesota students now pay the second highest rate in the nation. That is completely unacceptable and it must change."
Minnesota has a long tradition of investing in education and a reputation as a leader in higher education. For decades, Minnesotans have reaped the rewards of that investment as corporations created jobs in the region to take advantage of a highly trained workforce. Hortman said that legacy is in danger.
"The secret to our success as a state is our recognition that a quality education, and a quality higher education in particular, ought to be available to everyone," she said. "Minnesotans have shared this value for generations and as a result, companies like 3M and Medtronic have flourished here. Today, however, high tuition has become a barrier, and young people are leaving the state in search of an affordable education, and some have abandoned higher education all together. Minnesota is losing its competitive edge."
Students are turning to student loans more and more to finance their education. In 2005, nearly 60% of Minnesota students borrowed money, compared to 48% just three years earlier.
"Minnesota students now have the sixth highest debt load in the nation," Hortman said. "The average student graduates with over $18,000 in debt. This limits their job choices and greatly impairs their ability to purchase their first home."
To draw attention to the issue, MnSCU student associations will be holding a rally on the steps of the Capitol tomorrow, February 14, at noon. Earlier in the day, Representative Hortman will join Senator David Tomassoni and student leaders at a press conference in room 181 of the State Office Building at 10:00 am. Hortman said she was looking forward to the opportunity to communicate the need for affordable higher education.
"Sure, it'll be a little cold out there tomorrow. But, I suppose that's the perfect weather for a rally in support of a tuition freeze."