Signals about higher education sent by state leaders last week bode well for funding for state-assisted schools

That's good news for all Hoosiers.

Both the head of the Indiana Higher Education Commission and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes the state's budget, have suggested additional funding is in order for the next two years.

Teresa Lubbers and her commission have recommended an overall increase of 3.5 percent each year for state-supported schools, and Ways and Means head State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, said he's on the same page.

The higher education commission's recommendation also calls for a shot in the arm for repair and rehabilitation funds. That's crucial because the longer facilities fall into disrepair, the more it will cost to fix them. IU alone has deferred about $700 million in maintenance because of a lack of funding.

IU President Michael McRobbie told the Bloomington Herald-Times that he is pleased with the gestures of support for the state's public universities after three years of flat or reduced budgets. He said in an interview with the paper that "the tenor with respect to higher education ... has been more positive than in the past," and that it appears lawmakers have recognized it's time to reinvest in higher education.

The investment helps prepare Hoosiers as well as out-of-state students for an ever-changing world. It helps keep research flowing, which could lead to new knowledge and solutions to old as well as emerging problems. It helps propel the new economy that relies on technology, communication and other 21st century skills more than traditional manufacturing skills of 20th century Indiana.

At the same time, IU and other universities must continue to find creative ways to make higher education more affordable for all who want to pursue a degree. Programs such as IU's tuition freeze for students on track to graduate after their sophomore year, and a discount for summer school classes designed to help students graduate in a shorter period of time, need to continue and multiply.

Hoosier lawmakers have a multitude of important ways to spend Hoosier tax dollars, but their willingness to invest a little more in higher education would seem to indicate a growing understanding of the benefits our universities provide. That would be a welcome message to send to all Hoosiers.