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Letter: U of M having an impact in Red Wing, Goodhue County and state

It was a pleasure to meet with Red Wing-area Rep. Barb Haley recently and to share with her the impact of the University of Minnesota on your community and our entire state.

For example:

About 71 percent of our undergraduate students across our system on our five campuses — Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester and the Twin Cities — are Minnesota high school graduates, and that includes 278 students from Goodhue County. And later this month another 20 or so will be incoming students across our system, and I look forward to welcoming them. Plus, nearly 1,500 of our alumni — including physicians, nurses, engineers, teachers, and community leaders — live and work in and around Red Wing.

Did you know that 43 percent of our Twin Cities campus students graduate with no government-secured debt? Let me repeat: zero debt for more than four in 10 of our students.

That's a fact that runs counter to the national narrative about debt-laden students and families.

And for those students most in need — that is, from families making $50,000 or less — almost all of them can attend the university tuition free because of a collection of financial aid packages we provide.

As the first person in my family to attend and graduate from college, this effort to keep the university affordable to our qualified students is very important to me.

With the power and reach of Extension, its 4-H, and our historic commitment to Minnesota's agricultural and natural resources community, we continue to make feeding the world safely a priority of our teaching and our research.

Finally, we are a center for preparing the next generation of Minnesota's health care workforce and for seeking and finding cures and treatments for the most pressing diseases, with new statewide cancer clinical trials about to begin to better serve greater Minnesota citizens.

Thank you to Rep. Haley for spending time with me. I look forward to working with her and her legislative colleagues as the University of Minnesota seeks to partner with the state to refurbish and renew our campuses' aging infrastructure so that our students, faculty and staff can learn, teach and conduct research in safe and up-to-date world-class facilities.

Eric W. Kaler

St. Paul

Eric Kaler is the University of Minnesota president.