Contact: Sandy Connolly, Director of CommunicationsOffice of Higher Education (651) 259-3902
Legislative committees are finally processing capital investment bills and one thing is clear. There is a lack of commitment to postsecondary education the key to building a strong workforce for Minnesotas future in their bills. At about one-third of the Governors recommended funding, both the House and Senate critically underfund necessary projects on public college and university campuses across the state. This funding is critical to maintain and increase enrollment in key programs needed to address our states growing shortage of trained and educated workers.
In his public works bill, Governor Dayton emphasized postsecondary education so that students can study in safe, clean, and up-to-date facilities. His recommendation of $542 million includes projects that will enable Minnesota students to be trained in state-of-the-art instructional facilities that reflect the modern workplace and a competitive global marketplace. Newly modernized and expanded classrooms will prepare students for a wide variety of high-demand occupations, and enhance vital research.
Upgrades and improvement to current facilities is the single-greatest priority for the Governor, Minnesota State and the University of Minnesota this year. A total of $430 million of the Governors recommendation will invest in the shared campus priorities of improving student health and safety, while extending the useful life our states infrastructure.In my visits to these colleges and universities across the state, I have seen first-hand the need for these improvement projects. Ive seen falling ceiling tiles in classrooms, large pails in hallways catching rain water and mold growing on carpets and walls. As we stood in one medical lab slated for upgrades, a student commented that the lab at his high school was better than the one at his college. These sorry conditions would be addressed under the Governors comprehensive bonding requests.
The House and Senate bills demonstrate a serious lack of commitment to repairing and improving current facilities. At 19 and 30 percent of the Governors recommendation, respectively, the legislative proposals leave out critical roof repairs, heating, cooling and air ventilation upgrades serving thousands of students across the state. Many of these projects have been on a waiting list for years, and that exacerbates the damage and inflates the cost. It costs 12 times more to repair a building in critical condition than to properly maintain it in the first place. That means the longer we wait, the longer the backlog continues, the more costly the repairs.
Investments in our universities infrastructure creates jobs. It is estimated that Governor Daytons recommendations will create over 29,000 jobs in the coming weeks and months, largely in construction and manufacturing. In addition, investments in postsecondary education facilities help train people for jobs in the future. The states Occupations in Demand tool shows not only what jobs are in high demand today, but also how that demand is expected to grow over the next 10 years. High demand jobs that pay good wages, including health care professionals, manufacturing specialists, electricians, welders and web developers, all require some level of postsecondary completion. A comprehensive and targeted higher education bonding investment will help Minnesotas colleges and universities train and educate their students for jobs that are crucial for business growth and expansion.
The states Chief Financial Officer, Myron Frans, points out that we have the financial capacity to make these investments. As higher education commissioner, I know we have the need. A robust investment in capital improvement projects at our state colleges and universities makes good economic sense. The Governor is simply asking legislators to step up and do what is right for the economic future of the state.
Commissioner Larry Pogemiller
Minnesota Office of Higher Education
For more information, contact Sandy Connolly at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, 651-259-3902, cell phone 651-341-6617 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.