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U of M impacts all of state, says Kaler

Eric Kaler, University of Minnesota President

Take a guess at this: What percentage of University of Minnesota students graduate debt-free?

With all the news about the staggering amount of debt college students take on to get a degree, the answer may come as a surprise.

It's nearly 40 percent.

Of the university's 7,387 total graduates for 2013-2014, 2,859 (38.7 percent) did it debt-free.

Another 1,169 students (15.8 percent) graduated with debt of less than $10,000.

Only four students graduated with the "horror story" debt of $100,000 or more.

Eric Kaler, U of M president, cited the numbers in a four-city swing through Greater Minnesota this week, which included a stop in Alexandria on Monday.

Students were able to keep their debt low partly because of low tuition rates, Kaler said. In the last four years, tuition has increased 5 percent, which is lower than the inflation rate.

"The U of M is one of the economically best places to go," he said.

Besides addressing the student debt issue, Kaler also wanted to point out the impact the U of M has not just in the Twin Cities, but throughout Minnesota. He described the university as the "beating heart of the state." He said it plays a key leadership role in agriculture, business, health care, arts and culture, medical research and technological advances.

Douglas County has 1,128 U of M alumni, Kaler said—roughly 1 out of every 30 people in the county. He encouraged them to rally their legislators to support funding increases for the U.

"We only have two funding sources—state appropriation and tuition," Kaler said. "We can only cut so much."

Investing in education pays dividends, Kaler said. He said that for every $1 spent on education, the state receives a return of $13.20.

Kaler touched on a few ways the university is helping Greater Minnesota, from supporting the 4-H program (that began in Douglas County) to battling the avian flu and invasive species.

Just recently, the U of M announced a new way of helping golf courses that are struggling financially. It formed a partnership with the United States Golf Association (USGA) to conduct a five-year, $2.5 million study to try and make the game less expensive and time-consuming.

Kaler said, for example, that they hope to find ways for golf courses to cut their maintenance costs by using less water.

Kaler, noting all the golf courses in the area, said the partnership is another example of how the U of M's efforts are making a difference in Greater Minnesota.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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