Senate District 33 Candidates: Mike Phillips (D), Tom Tuck (R)

Note: Tuck answered only the first question.

1) To what extent will you combat financial barriers (i.e. rising tuition) that students face in their pursuit of higher education?

PHILLIPS: As I have done since first being elected to the Montana House of Representatives, I will continue to support increased funding for secondary education. Specifically, at this time I would support using the positive ending fund balance that is projected to exist as of June 30, 2013, to offset the cost of freezing tuition for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years.

TUCK: Why is the cost of higher education so out of control? Graduates leaving school with a BA or BS degree with $50,000 to $100,000 of debt before they even get started is totally insane.  When I attended college in the mid-to-late ‘70s in Montana, tuition was around $600 a year. Now the cost is $6,710 at MSU — well over a 1,000 percent increase. The reason is twofold. First, the easy access of college grants and loans has flooded the educational marketplace with money which has driven up cost. Second, the wild policies of the Federal Reserve Board have devalued the dollar so that it is worth only a fraction of its historical value. The money that has been flowing into Montana from the federal government is not going to be there in future years. Now is the time to tighten the university system and make it accountable to both the students and the people of Montana (not the labor unions or the bureaucrats). The university system needs to be a tool for education, not a bloated monument to education. I want to serve in the legislature to help direct the course of funding to get the most out of the taxpayer and tuition payer dollar.

2) Montana State University just completed a long-term strategic plan which includes calls for raising enrollment by 2,000, increasing faculty pay to 80 percent of the national average, priority budgeting and enhancing the student experience. What steps can Montana’s lawmakers take to assist in the pursuit of MSU’s goals?

PHILLIPS: The most direct approach for Montana lawmakers to assist with MSU’s long-term strategic plan is to support increased funding from the state’s general fund for secondary education. This approach has the added benefit of reducing the tax burden placed on local property owners. This, in turn, has the potential to reduce the cost of rent shouldered by MSU students.

3) Are Montana’s universities spending student and public money efficiently?

PHILLIPS: Yes, as far as I can tell.