Stakeholders in education must look to themselves as budget freezes, cuts become reality

Stakeholders in education must look to themselves as budget freezes, cuts become reality

January 25, 2011 — To be honest, when I heard that Minneapolis was enduring temperatures and wind chills in the far negative range, the Minnesotan in me was yearning to go back. Last semester, I was a liberal arts student at MCTC and editor in chief of City College News.

President Barack Obama works on his State of the Union Speech with Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau in the Oval Office, Jan. 24, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This semester, I am a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and a political journalism intern at The Daily Caller, a newly-minted online news organization. I will be returning to Minnesota at the conclusion of spring semester. However, while I am away, I hope to send students at MCTC dispatches from Washington — on politics, professional experiences and the like.

As I write this, the political establishment and the news media are anxiously speculating about the what-ifs and the maneuvering in advance of tonight’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama’s third take on the political tradition. (Readers may watch it here tonight at 8 p.m. Central time.)

It’s 45 degrees right now, but beginning with what Obama lays out in his speech, the heat is only going to build up. According to an unscientific online poll conducted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a plurality — 343 out of 1022 votes — want to see Obama address “curbing national debt,” as of 3:45 p.m. Central time.

Either a coincidence or some slight evidence of foresight on Obama’s part, ABC News’ Jake Tapper reported that the president will propose bringing the federal budget under an overall freeze and banning earmarks in the legislation that the U.S. House and Senate pass.

In my column “In era of budget cuts, let’s get our priorities straight,” from the Dec. 10, 2010, issue of City College News, I wrote that the process behind our college and our higher education system has gone too far in resembling an assembly line.

What we are seeing now is that the federal government, too, without new revenue streams and with tax cut extensions, cannot continue to dig deeper in its purse. That is why Obama will call for a 5-year spending freeze. Now, this is in addition to Minnesota’s anticipated budget cuts, not a freeze, to alleviate the state’s estimated $6 billion deficit.

Students, educators and administrators in higher education and in public education will need to be vigilant during this time of budget freezes and cuts.

The University of Minnesota’s newspaper, The Minnesota Daily, covered its president’s visit to the state legislature, where he made the case that education funding should be a priority.

“For every dollar you invest in us, we return, indirectly, four dollars of economic activity,” U of M President Bob Bruininks told legislators.

A separate college system from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), the U of M will likely be in competition for funding that Minnesota community colleges and state universities also want.

To preserve Minnesota’s top-to-bottom educational legacy, students and those who hold a stake in this system might look to the Minnesota State College Student Association (MSCSA), whose vice president, Geoff Dittberner, is an MCTC student. They might look to their elected leaders at the state and federal level. They might look to Governor Mark Dayton or to President Obama.

Ultimately, they must look to themselves to ensure the government protects this important investment.