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Daily News editorial board: It's a good time to invest in higher education

Daily News editorial board: It's a good time to invest in higher education

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The COVID-19 pandemic has provided so many reminders about what is important to our community — from health and family to safety and security.

Let’s make sure education is on that short list.

Families of children in K-12 schools have gotten a good taste of the importance of educators while sheltering at home.

But the importance of education doesn’t stop with high school.

During an interview last week, Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra reminded the Winona Daily News why investing in higher education is crucial for the future of our workforce and our economy.

Without question, the pandemic has caused great uncertainty and financial difficulty for many businesses and institutions — and Minnesota State certainly hasn’t been spared.

Malhotra and his team are developing options for preserving enrollment and revenue while cutting expenses based on different scenarios for when campuses and the rest of life can safely reopen.

Winona State University and Minnesota State College Southeast are prime examples of why higher education is so important — as a community leader, a cultural centerpiece, a workforce provider and a major employer.

Think of how quickly the pandemic has changed life for all of us.

Since Feb. 28, when the chancellor canceled all study aboard, our two local campuses and others in the Minnesota State system have quickly morphed the learning environment to online. In fact, 95 percent of the class offerings are all available via computer so the campuses can get the students over the finish line, as Malhotra said.

“It has blown to smithereens that old myth that higher education institutions, can’t adapt and change quickly,” he said. “Even though we may be working remotely, we are still continuing to provide extraordinary education to our students in these extraordinary times.”

An extraordinary education requires investment — even during extraordinary times.

And look at what that investment means to the state’s workforce.

Consider these 2018 figures:

86% of Minnesota graduates in law enforcement graduated from a Minnesota State college or university.

94% of Minnesota graduates in manufacturing graduated from a Minnesota State college or university.

52% of Minnesota graduates in IT graduated from a Minnesota State college or university.

53% of Minnesota graduates in agriculture graduated from a Minnesota State college or university.

67% of Minnesota graduates in nursing graduated from a Minnesota State college or university.

71% of Minnesota graduates in trades graduated from a Minnesota State college or university.

We urge the Legislature to approve a bonding bill that continues to invest in our state’s university and college system — and in the future of our educated workforce.

Minnesota State is seeking $150 million in asset preservation and $121.2 million for campus projects.

As the chancellor said, failure to approve of these investments doesn’t make the roof leak any less. At Winona State, the investment includes $3.2 million for the design of its Center for Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Engagement & Learning.

WSU plans to demolish Gildemeister and Watkins halls and build a new 73,000-square-foot building.

The new center will provide more useful spaces for classrooms and labs, reduce operating costs and create the type of green space that will be community-friendly and will increase sustainability.

The center would be the first building in the Minnesota State system that would be net-zero-energy and carbon neutral — setting a wonderful example for the future.

One could argue that higher education has never been a better investment for Minnesota.


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