DFL senator to student: Demand what you're entitled to in higher education

Student advocates took a chance to speak to legislators once more during a Senate hearing called apparently by the DFL this afternoon on an array of topics -- and got some strong words of encouragement from one senator.

When higher ed had its turn, Minnesota State College Student Association Travis Johnson, who represents students at two-year state-run colleges, took the occasion to renew his support for tuition caps.

(In the current bill, two-year state colleges face caps of 3 percent each year of the biennium. State universities could raise tuition by 5 percent the first year and 4 percent the second. MnSCU fees would also be capped at 4 percent a year during the biennium, unless students approve a higher maximum for their campus. Tuition at the University of Minnesota would be capped at 4 percent each year of the biennium, unless students approve a higher maximum for their campus. MnSCU Chancellor James McCormick recently asked lawmakers repeatedly to cap tuition at 5 percent or higher. )

Johnson told the senators:

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"Tuition caps are the best way of preserving affordability and access to higher education. Controlling tuition at our two-year colleges is especially important because of the students they serve. Many of our students come from nontraditional backgrounds.

... If the tuition caps in the higher education bill become law, students will backfill 67 percent of the cuts to the MnSCU system (through tuition increases). We think this is a fair solution."

MSU-Mankato student Thomas Williams, the former president of the Minnesota State Student Association, which represents state university students, called himself "idealistic" and asked the lawmakers not to lower investment in the system:

"We students offer a unique perspective on this world. We approach life with a vigor and tenacity unmatched by any other demographic. ... Minnesota's investment in us is an investment in stability, in innovation and growth."

Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Minneapolis), told him:

"You’re not being idealistic. You need to demand that we do what you said. We have enough wealth to educate you well, we just (want to spend it on other things). You’re entitled to it. To ask you to give up on your dreams and ideals is absolutely wrong."