Carlson: Education is in transition

NEW ULM-Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson said he’s concerned about the need to make college education more affordable Friday at the 10th Annual Cocktails with the Governor Reception at the Lind House.

“The State of Minnesota needs to provide more oversight to the University of Minnesota in light of the huge amount of student debt,” said Carlson, who said he formerly served on the University of Minnesota Medical School Board of Overseers. “The average University of Minnesota student debt load is about $30,000. It’s a growing problem. I think the State should have a very deep interest in this. Higher education is going through a tremendous transition.”

Carlson said more legislation that supports pairing higher education with actual public and private business and industrial needs is needed. He said he’d like to see several hundred million tax dollars be used to supply the latest electronic devices to students and help the homeless instead of paying for a new $1 billion stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

“I wish more people would see the movie ‘I Remember Mama,’ and learn how to dole out money,” Carlson said. The play became a Broadway production and a 1948 feature film written by DeWitt Bodeen, directed by George Stevens about a woman who prepares weekly budget and each family member makes a financial sacrifice to contribute to a young boy, Dagmar, after he announced he wanted to attend high school.

Carlson was considered a champion of bipartisanship during his two terms in office, a friend of public education and a big fan of the University of Minnesota.

In 2011, Carlson teamed with Walter Mondale to propose a non-partisan budget commission after the July state government shutdown.

Carlson said that if he ran for office again, he’d run as a Republican but that in recent years, political moderates have tended to be left out. “Caucuses lend themselves to become Battle Royals,” he said.

Carlson endorsed Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008. In 2010, he again broke with his party to endorse Independence gubernatorial candidate Tim Horner and DFL candidate Tim Walz for Congress. As a result, the State Republican Committee banned Carlson and 17 other Republicans from participating in party events for two years.

Carlson’s wife Susan earned a law degree from Hamline University. As Minnesota’s First Lady, she was perhaps known best for for her work on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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