Support for stepping out of the downward spiral

That a statewide group has emerged to support and promote higher education is welcome news.

That it is being launched by Ian Davidson, chairman of the Davidson Cos., is encouraging. His name and the word "success" go well
together in a sentence.


Announced Tuesday, the Alliance for Montana’s Future will honcho a grassroots campaign to "call to the state citizens’ attention the
importance of higher education."

"When you talk about economic development," Davidson said, "interestingly enough it always comes back to education."

We couldn’t agree more.

The group’s campaign, which is organized into 11 regions, has never been more important.

Though no one seems to be saying it aloud, the university system is in crisis, and it’s getting worse.

The clear picture is that of a downward spiral:

Thursday, two days after the press conference to announce the alliance, the state Board of Regents authorized a tuition increase on top of
the 12 percent hike already in place.

The money is needed because Regents had been warned that the Martz administration planned further budget cuts. Right on cue, Budget
Director Chuck Swysgood Friday announced $23.8 million in cuts, including $5.2 million from the U system.

The budget cuts are needed because tax revenue isn’t coming in at the anticipated rate. There are many reasons for that, but foremost are
the lagging state economy, evaporation of capital gains from the stock market, and tax cuts by the Legislature.

This is not a trend that can continue. Montana already spends less — far less — per student for higher education than any of its seven peer

Based on what Davidson and his colleagues say is a clear link between the education system and performance of the state’s economy,
the way to end such a downward spiral is simply to step out of it.

The only means the state has to do that is to find ways to provide more financial support for education — to invest in our human capital.

Other states, notably the Dakotas and North Carolina, have done it, and after doing it have improved their state rankings in per capita

We don’t know how much clearer the solution could be.

But it won’t be easy, and that’s the challenge that faces the Alliance for Montana’s Future.

It is a vitally important effort; we applaud and support it.

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