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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


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Mission : Tuition

MSU rally will take on issue of rising tuition

by Derek Wehrwein

Issue date: 02/12/09 Section: Campus News
Now is the time for newly elected officials to start listening to their constituents.

So says Minnesota State Student Association President Ryan Anderson, who will be one of the speakers at today's "Tackling Tuition" rally at MSU. The event is part of a statewide effort on college campuses to promote the importance of keeping tuition affordable for students.

The goal, at least for Anderson, is to encourage students to make tuition an issue with their legislators.

"I will talk about how students can get involved in contacting their representatives about public higher education and how it is important to keep tuition low and quality high," he said.

The rally will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. at Centennial Student Union room 253 and was organized largely by MSSA senators Bob Dooley and Jayme Pretzloff. Anderson said similar events have been scheduled at all seven four-year campuses in Minnesota.

Scheduled speakers for today's event include President Richard Davenport, South Central College President Keith Stover and MSU Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Scott Olson.

While Anderson indicated the quality of education remains high in Minnesota, he also said the state has "lost a lot of ground on the cost end."

In a release sent on behalf of MSSA to all students Wednesday, Anderson noted that if proposed state cuts are enacted, the rate of tuition will have grown nearly 75 percent during the past decade, while state funding would increase by less than 2 percent during the same period.

Last semester the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees recommended a 3-percent tuition increase for its schools, including MSU. The board made that recommendation with the expectation Minnesota State would receive a certain amount of state funding, however.

With the state facing a projected $4.8 billion budget deficit, it's virtually certain Minnesota State will be looking at a cut in that state funding. In fact, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has already taken back $40 million from state higher education, including $1.5 million from MSU, to cover the state's current shortfall. That in turn could mean the board will reconsider and raise its recommended tuition hike.

CSU Director Laurie Woodward, also scheduled to speak today, indicated maintaining both high quality education and low tuition isn't easy in such a climate.

"I think that students, faculty and staff are all going to have to balance the quality of education versus the cost of education," she said. "It's one of the hardest things we can do."

Woodward said MSU must focus on using its current resources to the best of its ability. Anderson, meanwhile, said he thought the balance could be achieved through state funding of the educational system and "trusting administration to spend wisely."

But even Anderson admitted the MSSA faces challenges of its own. That's because if universities don't hike tuition enough to cover cuts in state funding, they'll instead be looking at cutting services for students.

"As a student government, we're torn between allowing tuition to go higher or holding the line on tuition and forcing the campus to make tough choices," Anderson said.

Despite the situation, however, Woodward still sounded a positive note.

"If everybody puts ideas out on the table, the best ones will rise to the top and maybe we'll come up with some things that will help the university," she said.

Derek Wehrwein is the Reporter editor in chief