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Minnesota Legislature

Private colleges hurting

Published (2/20/2009)
By Nick Busse
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Officials from private colleges told members of a House division that public universities aren’t the only schools that have been hit hard by the economy.

Macalester College President Brian Rosenberg told members of the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division Feb. 12 that the college’s endowment funds have shrunk, and its fundraising environment is terrible because of the economic recession. As a result, he said they’ve had to make cutbacks.

“We are trying in every way possible to reduce our expenses without having a negative impact on either the accessibility of the college or the quality of the education that we provide to our students. As you would imagine, that is an extremely difficult trick,” Rosenberg said.

He said many capital projects are being slowed or halted, and that most Macalester employees are likely to experience a wage freeze.

Rosenberg also said roughly 70 percent of Macalester students receive some level of need-based financial aid — some in the form of state grants. Similarly, College of St. Catherine President Sister Andrea Lee said students at her college often depend on state aid for access to higher education. Contrary to popular myth, she said, most students at hers and other private colleges do not come from wealthy families.

Both Lee and Rosenberg urged lawmakers not to cut funding for higher education, as they look for solutions to the state’s budget deficit. Rosenberg said it’s especially important to invest in higher education during times of recession.

“There is a direct correlation between the rate of increase in participation in higher education and the rate of increase in gross domestic product,” Rosenberg said. He advocated for increasing revenues as well as cutting the budget to solve the state’s projected deficit.

The division took no action.

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