Education Montana Politics

They Want Their Cake and Eat It Too

I’m referring to Montana University System students. In a letter to the Missoulian, and I assume other dailies, the writer rebukes students for wanting a tuition freeze and also an increase in university system funding.

First, I’ve always thought that the “cake” proverb was stupid.  What’s the point of having a cake if you can’t eat it?  But I digress.

What’s amazing about the letter is it’s penned by former MUS Board of Regents Chairman Lawrence K. Pettit.  Here’s the short, succinct letter:

I see that students on all six state campuses have rallied for a tuition freeze. I imagine these same students spent the last three months lobbying the state legislature for a significant increase in university system appropriations. Or have they not yet learned about cause and effect? No?

“Cause and effect?” I guess Pettit thinks that the university system should be paid for solely through student tuition.  The fact that it has been underfunded by the state for years now escapes him.  Students should make up the difference and then graduate tens of thousands of dollars in debt.  Or not go to college at all so we have plenty of unskilled, underpaid workers to advance the Montana economy.

University tuitions in the U.S. have increased by 1,120 percent since 1978.  The U.S. has an affordability rating of 51.34 percent (what you get when you divide the median tuition of $13,856 by the median income of $26,990).  Some other countries’ affordability ratings: Germany, 4.24; Sweden, 2.89; France, 2.83; Denmark, 2.31; Norway, 2.24.

What’s shocking is that Pettit’s bio has length and depth: university president, chancellor, legislative assistant to Sens. Murray and Metcalf, chairman of many boards and councils.  We all have our lapses but this one is astounding.

CORRECTION: Apparently, Pettit’s letter is ironic (as pointed out in the comments).  Because of Pettit’s stature, I read it over-and-over before posting and still missed the gist of it.  My fault.  In my defense, sarcasm and irony are best used in speech, where delivery and tone make all the difference.  I learned this a long time ago when some of my sarcastic early writing was taken seriously.

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  • It appears that Pete missed the irony in Petit’s letter. Read it again Pete. Where were the students when the Legislature was considering University funding.

    • Yes, Patrick, I missed the irony. I was a bit confused by the wording but I see it now. I’m still unsure why students protesting tuition increases also have to go to the legislature and lobby for university system funding, but I see what Pettit’s implying.

  • I certainly agree with you Pete. The Legislature is responsible for adequate funding of the university system. It has long failed to live up to that responsibility.

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Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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