Higher Education Reflections | Representative Ben Lien Response

Students United sent out questions to all candidates with accessible contact information who are running in a district that encompasses a Minnesota State university. In a series of blogs we will publish all candidates who responded to our questions. For a complete list of respondents click here.

Below are Representative Ben Lien’s answers to the questions Students United sent out to candidates. Representative Lein is currently running for the Minnesota House of Representatives District 4A seat. Minnesota State University Moorhead is in District 4A.

Minnesota State universities rely on state funding to continue to serve students. Should the state prioritize the funding of higher education public institutions? If so, explain how would you ensure Minnesota State universities are adequately funded. If not, explain why funding public institutions are not a top priority.

I'd like to see Minnesota get back to the funding ratio for public higher education where 1/3 is funded through tuition and 2/3 is funded by the state. Around 2010, that ratio started to flip where tuition funded over 50% of the cost of public higher education. We are now getting back to a 50/50 split between the state and tuition, and that is good progress. Along with better state support, there needs to be a clear understanding of how public dollars are being used by public higher education institutions. The Legislature needs guarantees that state support is going to go into the classroom to support students.

In recent years, Minnesota State has worked to increase its enrollment and its retention from underrepresented communities. Do you see these steps as important for Minnesota’s public universities? If so, what is your plan to help aid Minnesota State? If not, explain why you don’t see this an important? In recent years, Minnesota State has worked to increase its enrollment and retention of underrepresented communities. Do you believe the legislature can and should play a role in aiding this effort? If yes, how? and if not, why?

Yes, this is important. In order for Minnesota's economy to remain strong, all Minnesotans need opportunities to succeed. Higher education, and education in general, is the number one way for people to better themselves and improve their standing in life. All Minnesotans need avenues to participate in the economy and keep our state strong. An example of how the state is accomplishing this work is through the Teacher Shortage Loan Forgiveness Program.

Should the state have a role in making Minnesota higher education institutions more accessible? If so, explain its role. If not, explain your reasoning.

The state can play a role in helping to make higher education more accessible to Minnesotans. The single biggest factor to improving accessibility for higher education is lower tuition. The state should also be helping people with student debt who go into high demand fields, and encouraging more partnerships between higher education and the private sector. These are both ways to help more people access higher education and build Minnesota's economy.

To learn more about Representative Lien click here.