Rep. Tina Liebling’s op-ed on Minnesota’s higher education system is in desperate need of correcting. If this were a term paper, Rep. Liebling wouldn’t get a very good grade. Here’s one thing she said that’s objectionable:

Many in my father’s generation were able to attend college only because of the GI Bill, where the federal government paid for the education or job training of returning World War II veterans. Under the GI Bill the sons and daughters of immigrant waiters and miners and farmers greatly expanded the middle class as they became business people, professionals and academics.

It isn’t that the things Rep. Liebling said are incorrect. It’s that Rep. Liebling isn’t painting a complete picture. The difference between the higher education system of the post-WWII era and now is that the programs of 50+ years ago were dedicated to giving students, many of whom were returning veterans, the skills they needed to do a great job for the company that would hire them.

When today’s students graduate with a degree in Ecotourism or Social Responsibility, it’s difficult to picture employers beating a path to their door to hire graduates with those degrees.

What’s needed isn’t ‘investment’ in higher education. What’s needed is beefing up programs that add value to the economy. Resources are finite. They must be spent wisely. Right now, that isn’t happening.

This ill-informed cheapshot statement won’t go unchallenged:

A generation later, when I finished high school, my family could not afford to pay for college. Even so, I was able to attend the University of Minnesota and get a great education. This great academic institution was available to me and many others of my generation because Minnesota invested in our future. Without public investments, the GI bill, subsidized student loans, Pell Grants, and the public support that kept tuition low at public colleges and universities, our state and nation would be just a shadow of its present self. That’s where the Republican and Tea Party policies of today are taking us.

Rep. Liebling’s ill-informed cheapshot at the TEA Party is proof of her ignorance and her willingness to engage in demagoguery. Rep. Liebling’s statement isn’t based on reality.

Apparently, Rep. Liebling’s education didn’t include communication training. Paragraphs shouldn’t be 104 words long. A new paragraph should’ve started with this sentence:

Without public investments, the GI bill, subsidized student loans, Pell Grants, and the public support that kept tuition low at public colleges and universities, our state and nation would be just a shadow of its present self.

Paragraph breaks should be placed where the subject changes. Rep. Liebling’s op-ed on ‘investing’ in higher education would be more credible if her grammar wasn’t this tortured.

This statement must be challenged:

People with college educations are less likely to be unemployed and make $900,000 more in their lifetimes than those with high school diplomas.

This type of generalized statement shouldn’t be allowed to stand without scrutiny. It isn’t difficult to believe that graduates with degrees in engineering, biology, health care-related disciplines and other hard degrees will make more money than someone with a high school diploma.

Students with a degree in Social Responsibility might make a little more than a high school graduate but it’s hardly guaranteed.

The tuition hikes this year continue a troubling trend. It now costs about twice as much to go to college than it did just 10 years ago. This forces many students to borrow thousands of dollars and go deeply in debt.

In 2007, Gov. Pawlenty signed a Higher Education Omnibus Bill that increased spending by $296,000,000. That represents an 11.3% increase. Still, tuition increased.

That’s because the money wasn’t spent wisely. It wasn’t used to solidify degree programs that added value to Minnesota’s economy.

We can’t continue spending money without knowing what we’re getting for the money that’s getting spent.

Let’s hope that Rep. Liebling learns that before she writes another ill-informed op-ed.

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2 Responses to “Tina Liebling’s fight for higher ed status quo”

  • Alan says:

    What a GREAT article! I think it is past time for taxpayers to demand accountability and results from today’s “progressive” university.

  • Janet says:

    Gary,

    Check with King but if my recollection is correct, since the feds got into the “college assistance business,” college tuition has increased 3X the rate of inflation.

    You are 1000% (yes, 3 zeroes) correct that useless degrees guarantee nothing but debt for students who take content free courses. In fact, they’re being robbed in a sense if they borrow to take those “feel good” courses for which no one will hire them.

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