The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Students lobby for increased financial aid at capitol

By David Hertz

Students worried about the rising cost of college went to the state capitol last Thursday to take the problem into their own hands.About 30 Macalester students, along with students from Hamline University and Augsburg College, signed up to meet and lobby their state elected officials to increase funding for the state grant program, which gives 83,000 low and middle income Minnesotan students up to $5,000 per year towards their tuition.

The lobby day was part of an annual effort by the Minnesota Private College Council, an organization representing 17 private Minnesota colleges, to bring students to the capitol to lobby for more state spending on higher education. About 600 students signed up to lobby this year, according to MPCC Director for Government and Community Affairs Scott McMahon.

As the economic downturn continues, the state grant is significant to many students. Last year, 105 Macalester students received state grants worth an average of about $3,700, a contribution of $392,000 towards total financial aid for Macalester students.

One student lobbyist, Courtney Flathers, ’10, said although she does not receive the grant, she believed lobbying would help low income students afford college.

“I feel like I’m contributing to the [economic] diversity of the college,” Flathers said.

Michael Manansala, ’12, a resident of Rochester, Minn., and a state grant recipient, had a more direct motivation for lobbying his state representatives.

“I pay for my own education and I don’t want to take out more loans,” Manansala said.

The MPCC is pushing for a $75 million increase in state grant funding that would expand the program to 10,000 more students and increase the average grant by about $1,600.

Finding that money might not be so easy, as Macalester students discovered when they met with Erin Murphy, the Democratic state representative whose district includes the college.

“The state is facing a significant budget deficit, so even if we want to increase the funding for education, we may have to make cuts,” Murphy said.

Gary Hill, Communications Director for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, agreed.

“Any new money appears extremely hard to find,” Hill said, pointing to Minnesota’s $6.4 billion budget deficit over the next two years. “One way or another they’ve got to make their numbers work out.”

Without state money, new higher education money could still come from the federal stimulus program, which gave Minnesota around $800 million for Pell grants, a national grant which also provides money for low income college students. Since Minnesota pools its money for Pell and state grants, this would result in an increase in overall grant spending.

McMahon said, however, that the real fight would be over whether the state would maintain its Pell grant spending, or use the stimulus money to help pay for other programs.

Students lobbied Dick Cohen, state Senator in Macalester’s district and chair of the Finance Committee, which the higher education funding bill will have to pass through for a vote from the full Senate.

Cohen said he believed the proposal from his committee would contain no new spending or cuts in the grant program.

“I’m expecting that what will happen is we’ll maintain the program as intended,” at the current level of funding, Cohen said.

“That is absolutely a positive thing,” McMahon said of Cohen’s statement at a debriefing session after lobbying meetings ended. “If that proposal goes through, it will have a tremendous benefit.”

The Minnesota Daily reported that the Higher Education Committee voted Tuesday to keep state higher education spending at current levels in their proposed budget. This proposal would still have to be passed by the Finance Committee, the Senate, and the House, before it could become law.

But even if the proposal passes, it will be a short-term fix, McMahon said.

“The biggest issue with the stimulus money is, we’ve got it for two years. then we’re back in the situation we are in now,” McMahon said.

The MPCC is also organizing the Facebook group “Expand aid for Minnesota college students,” to attract college students interested in the cause. The group currently has 332 members.

McMahon said legislators pay more attention to Facebook than most students think.

“You would be surprised,” McMahon said. “Some members actually spend more time working email through Facebook, rather than their actual email.

View Comments (7)
More to Discover

Comments (7)

All The Mac Weekly Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • B

    Brandon KingSep 9, 2019 at 7:37 pm

    Yes, you are right buddy, daily updating web site is genuinely needed in support of SEO. Fastidious discussion keeps it up.