Minnesota DFL Gov. Candidate Otto Proposes Two Years of Free Tuition, $15 Minimum Wage

Speaker G. Mark Mickelson is stumping for a tobacco tax increase and other funding to subsidize South Dakota vo-tech tuition back down from its current regional high to the regional average.

But if Speaker Mickelson gets his tobacco tax, he might still have trouble competing with Minnesota, if our neighbors elect DFL candidate Rebecca Otto governor. Otto is advocating a $229-million plan to make the first two years of vo-tech and college free for every student in Minnesota:

You will get 2 years free college or vocational education at a Minnesota State college or university. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system is comprised of 30 state colleges and 7 state universities with 54 campuses in 47 communities throughout Minnesota. Attendance for a two-year associate degree, the first two years of a four-year degree program, or a vocational program, at any Minnesota State institution will be tuition- and fee-free to all first-time college students (within 4 years of high school graduation) or to adults outsourced or automated out of a job. When you graduate you will have zero tuition or fee debt from the first two years [Rebecca Otto campaign, “The 15-5-2 Plan,” campaign website, retrieved 2017.11.03].

Note that this plan isn’t a targeted scholarship like South Dakota’s “Build Dakota Scholarship” giving free vo-tech to students going into fields with worker shortages. This plan is for every student who can maintain a 2.5 GPA (that’s all?), do 25 hours of community service during the scholarship period, participate in a mentoring program, and then live and work in Minnesota for four years after college.

Otto says her plan reflects the good sense shown by nine other developed nations:

A 2015 OECD report lists the countries with free college tuition as of 2013-14: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden and Turkey. In 2014, Germany eliminated tuition at its colleges and universities. Even Americans can now attend college for free in Germany. The OECD report says this decision “reflects these countries’ deeply rooted social values, such as equality of opportunity and social equity,” the values on which America was also founded [Otto, retrieved 2017.11.03].

Boy, we could all take up smoking and still not raise enough Mickelson tax money to compete with Otto’s tuition offer.

For those not going to college, Otto offers a separate economic incentive to move to Minnesota: raising the minimum wage a buck a year to $15 by 2023. Small businesses and non-Twin-Cities towns would get until 2025 to reach that Bernie Sanders benchmark.

At the rate we’ve been increasing our minimum wage since our Democratically initiated hike to $8.50 in 2015, by 2025, South Dakota’s minimum wage would be about $9.73.


22 Responses to Minnesota DFL Gov. Candidate Otto Proposes Two Years of Free Tuition, $15 Minimum Wage

  1. We all know that smoking is a poor life choice, but there is no logical connection to the idea of forcing smokers to pay for other people’s vo-tech education. It’s a mismatch of an idea.

    And as much as I favor education I do think that students should have some skin in the game in the form of money. People who aren’t willing to sacrifice some to further their own education are going to be less likely to complete that education than those who are willing to commit time AND resources. So in the hierarchy of things I would rather see government more greatly subsidize needs – like healthcare, over wants – like college education.

  2. Rebecca Otto (DFL) is a very smart honest and capable candidate that rose to popularity after discovering a $12,000,000 audit error by the previous state auditor under Pawlenty back in 2006. Unbelievable true story.

  3. I have to agree with you Rohr. College education is still incredibly expensive so let’s work on things like tuition hike freezes or lowering the price instead of giving free college to everyone.

  4. John Sweet

    Room, board and textbook costs can equal or exceed the costs of tuition and fees. So students do have “skin in the game.”

  5. Room and board are not education expenses. They are living expenses for anyone not living in their parents’ basement. The only game someone has skin in from renting a room and putting food in their mouth is the game of life.

  6. Good point, Dr. Sweet—Otto isn’t footing the entire bill.

  7. There is no logical connection between smokers/alcohol taxes paying for squat except if they live above the income for snap- Mickelson knows well that a there is a part of the population that does not use it’s snap benefits even though they qualify.
    When a smoker/drinker who qualifies but does not collect his benefit gets a tax hike on their choice of indulgence that they will then start using their snap benefits to ease off the pain and which then forces us to put more out of our pockets to subsidize snap that was unused before sin taxes- It’s a farce and he knows it. You all got the shaft on Marsie’s law as well- most states have rightfully had it declared unconstitutional , yet SD dems have yet to say a word………..Seriously !

  8. Robin, does the state not have an interest in discouraging unhealthy and costly behavior?

    And on Marsy’s Law—”most states”? I wish that were true, but the only state I’m aware of that has canned Henry T. Nicholas’s vanity project on constitutional grounds is Montana, and their Supreme Court agreed with me and threw out the initiative on procedural grounds that have no bearing in South Dakota. Have any states declared the crime victims bill of rights itself unconstitutional?

  9. John Sweet

    Ror- Room and board expenses are a cost a post secondary student must bear in connection with the total cost of education. The student is taken out of the job market except for low wage part-time work. And most students live away from home for post secondary education.

  10. Room and board are an expense anyone with an apartment must bear. They are not education expenses. Young high school grads are low wage workers whether they go to post secondary education or not.

    In a world with unlimited government resources I would be all for free post secondary education. We don’t live in that world. I would much rather have government use limited resources to provide universal healthcare for Americans. Needs before wants.

  11. bearcreekbat

    Ror, do you support tuition-free government funded high schools?

  12. bear, do you support the Rebecca Otto free college plan?

  13. bearcreekbat

    Ror, yes I support it. It seems a wise use of tax dollars to provide young people with the opportunity to obtain as much education as possible.

    What is your answer to my question and your reasoning? High school kids have no “skin in the game in the form of money,” yet many succeed.

  14. bear, yes I support tuition free public education through graduation from high school.

  15. bearcreekbat

    Ror, I suspected that was your viewpoint. What is your reasoning?

  16. bear, it would be nice if we could come to some agreement today. Do you agree with me that government should prioritize universal healthcare ahead of free college?

  17. bearcreekbat

    Ror, I might agree if this were a binary choice – either one or the other. But I doubt that it is such a choice. In any event, I rank free education as one of the top priorities, among all the choices we have for public spending.

    For example, would you agree that the government should prioritize free college over, say, increased military buildup if we had to choose one or the other?

  18. yes, bear. I would go so far as to say we should slash military spending and use all of the savings to pay for healthcare and college.

  19. bearcreekbat

    Ror, then we agree!

    I was under the initial impression that your objection to the Rebecca Otto free college plan was not because of priorities, but was based on failing to require students to have some financial “skin in the game.” While that certainly could motivate some students, I suspect that most students would be motivated to succeed in free college by the same factors that motivate high school students to succeed in free high schools.

  20. I think we agree generally on most things, bear. Have a nice day.

  21. bearcreekbat

    Thanks Ror, que tenga un buen dia tambien!

  22. Interesting to talk priorities. It would seem many other nations have chosen to spend money on universal health care and heavily subsidized higher education instead of investing in massive militaries.