State resolution: Fund education


2015 is behind us and I am sure many of you have made resolutions for the New Year. By definition, a resolution is something that is resolved or corrected. When we commit to a resolution, we commit to correcting a problem.

Sometimes issues take years to resolve or solutions are accomplished in stages. In the interest of efficiency, when you can correct a number of concerns at once, that generally becomes a priority resolution.

Consider some of the concerns surrounding the workforce demand forecast, coupled with the higher education challenges facing our high school graduates. We see credible reports that Minnesota's workforce is quickly aging and there is concern that the future workforce will not meet the potential job growth. By any stretch of interpretation, that is a concerning signal for our future economy and its diversification. We have an age demographic trending rapidly upwards, and as a state we ought to ensure we are retaining as many high school graduates as possible in addition to attracting young professional populations.

Now we have a separate yet contributing problem with accessing higher education. Potentially large student debt loads are scaring off young people. High costs of tuition are prohibiting the diversity we ought to strive for in our higher education campuses. Our system essentially says, if you cannot afford to pay, you are destined for low paying jobs for the rest of your life. The fact is, our future economy requires a mix of jobs with a variety of pay scales and benefits. If our workforce does not meet the demand forecast, we are looking at a reverse trend in job growth.

With limited resources, we have to do our very best to develop solutions that accomplish as many goals as possible. Our job markets are evolving. While we will always have a need for high school graduates and non-graduates in our market, the trend is for even more graduates with associate's and bachelor's degrees.

This is in part why I want to see a trend towards free associate's degree programs and certificate programs through Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. There is no valid reason why we cannot find a way to completely fund scholarships for our Minnesota kids graduating from public high schools. MNSCU does a fabulous job in working with employers to develop and offer needed programs. We need to ensure all of our kids can access those, regardless of economic status, race, religion or any other socio-economic factor that currently prohibits youth from accessing opportunities. Our future depends on proactive policy and that's a pretty darn good New Year's resolution.

Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, is the Minnesota state representative for District 7B.