I have read and heard too many comments claiming that the Minnesota House Democrats’ proposal of free community college for state residents will result in degrees with no value (“Free community college tied to income,” April 9). Tell that to the European nations that offer free university educations, Germany, Norway, Iceland and others, all of which boast illustrious alumni.
We do, in fact, have an example much closer to home. The City University of New York (CUNY), which offered free tuition to all qualified New York City high school graduates from its founding in 1847 until it started charging tuition in 1976, counts among its alumni many Nobel laureates and others who made distinguished contributions to society. Among those alumni were Jonas Salk, who created the first polio vaccine; Bernard Baruch, adviser to presidents from Woodrow Wilson to John F. Kennedy; Felix Frankfurter, justice of the Supreme Court; Colin Powell; playwright Paddy Chayefsky; lyricist Ira Gershwin; actors Judd Hirsch, Zero Mostel, Edward G. Robinson and Eli Wallach; writers Bernard Malamud, Mario Puzo and Upton Sinclair; and many others.
My own father, the son of impoverished immigrants from Eastern Europe, obtained both undergraduate and graduate degrees from CUNY, became an English teacher in the 1930s and rose through the ranks until he became chairman of the New York City Board of Examiners, the highest civil service position in the city attainable by competitive examination. My dad valued his degrees and used them to instill a love of learning and encourage student achievement throughout his more than 40 years working in education.
Joyce Denn, Woodbury
In continuing efforts to spend our money, now the Minnesota House DFLers want to use part of the $9.3 billion budget surplus for free community college — another attempt to buy votes through wealth redistribution.
Like most people who are productive and self-sufficient, I work very hard for every dollar I earn. I pay a large amount of taxes every year but am still generous with charitable giving.
Here’s an idea the DFL socialists would never consider: Give the budget surplus back to those who created it! The formula is simple. Everyone who paid the taxes that created the surplus gets a pro rata share back. If you did not participate in creating this surplus, you get nothing. And no one gets another freebie paid for by taxpayers like me.
Then I, and not the Minnesota House, will decide what portion of my rebate I give away, and to whom.
Larry Peszek, Independence, Minn.
It’s great that former Capitol reporters Lori Sturdevant and Gene Lahammer are offering their wisdom on state budget issues (“A skeptic’s view of the state surplus,” March 21, and Readers Write, April 11). Sturdevant expressed caution on handling the projected surplus while Lahammer advocates leaving unspent some portions of the forecast. As another Capitol old-timer, I too urge “banking” some of this windfall but in a different way.
The one-time dollars should be appropriated into a few new investment funds tied to long-term chronic problems facing Minnesota. Examples might be a Natural Resource Climate Response Fund, an Education Equity Fund, an Impaired Waters Recovery Fund and a “New Agriculture” Commodity Support Fund.
The dollars would be invested by the state’s investment staff, and treated like an endowment. The investment earnings would be appropriated by the Legislature each year as it sees fit for the purposes of each fund. And since the $9 billion-plus surplus is indeed a forecast, the appropriations to the funds would be made contingent upon actual future receipts, not the forecast.
Tom Triplett, Stillwater
The writer is former state finance commissioner.
Let me get this straight (“U to pay athletes for academic success,” April 9): These athletes now can make thousands to millions of dollars on their skills and likenesses. They get free education on a scholarship plus room and board most of the time. Now we’re going to pay them for getting good grades like in grade school? If you’re a musician, do you also get the same deal? If I’m a research student and I make a discovery, do I get a percentage of the manufacturing of the discovery I make?
Then in the article about free community college on the same day, the higher education commissioner in the last two paragraphs urges more funding for the University of Minnesota. If the U has so much money to pay these athletes, I don’t think they need any more. This is just an insult to the other students and the taxpayers in Minnesota who paid their fair share to attend the schools.
Dave Zimmerman, Coon Rapids
Note to the U’s fundraising department: I am asking that you remove my name from any mailing/e-mail lists where you are asking for donations, bequests or gifts. Not being particularly athletic, I needed to approach funding for my education through a different method. Granted, I attended when tuition was not as godawful high as it is now. Still, through one full-time and one part-time job while a full-time student, I was thankfully able to graduate with no debt. Athletes are able to receive full-ride scholarships, sell their bodies and iron-on patches on their uniforms to the highest bidder, and now the university is going to donate money to these athletes just for getting good grades. While I attended — and I am sure it is the same for today’s non-student-athlete — the consequence of not achieving good grades was simple: You receive no credit.
Many of these athletes will go on to multimillion dollar contracts. The U will for them just be a distant memory. I refuse to donate to its largesse.
Keith Reed, Rosemount
What is the rationale for offering bonuses for classroom excellence only to athletes? Why not to non-athletes as well?
Richard Hall, Plymouth
Over the past several months we have witnessed many attempts by those on the far left to stifle free speech. Their rationale is they are moral and right, and anyone who disagrees does not have the right to express their views — a dangerous position in a liberal democracy.
The latest has occurred at the Rochester Golf & Country Club where a group of members led by Erin Nystrom decided that the Center of the American Experiment (CAE) could not discuss solutions to fight rising crime (“Think tank sues over canceled event,” April 8).
Instead of preventing CAE from offering its ideas to fight crime, quite the opposite has occurred. Nystrom has brought more attention to CAE than would have otherwise occurred and is now the subject of a lawsuit and online abuse.
A better strategy for Nystrom would be to let CAE meet at the Rochester Golf & Country Club. Request that the club allow a different point of view at a later date. Give the people an opportunity to evaluate both points of view.
Jim Piga, Mendota Heights
Labeling the Center of the American Experiment (CAE) a “think tank” is as accurate as calling the 1960s Students for a Democratic Society a social club. The CAE is an extremist right-wing advocacy group posing as intellectuals. The CAE loves to inflame divisions in the electorate over any hot issue that will distract from the historical imbalance in wealth and prosperity in our country. The CAE has never met a tax break for the wealthy that it could not praise, nor a program for the poor that it could not denigrate. The Star Tribune has committed a grave error in legitimizing such a group as a “think tank.”
Tom Salkowski, Buffalo
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