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Students' Trek Ends at Capitol
Group lobbies lawmakers for higher education funding.
Dan Linehan, Mankato Free Press, May 15, 2013
About halfway through their walking trip to the Capitol, on Sunday three Minnesota State University, Mankato students got some good news: The state will spend $250 million more on higher education over the next two years.
On Tuesday, as they hobbled on sore feet around the Capitol to lobby key lawmakers crafting a final bill, there was only one question. What to spend it on?
And these students have an unusual answer. They don’t want a tuition freeze. They actually want to pay more. Three percent more.
“It sounds crazy,” said Moriah Miles, who recently earned a degree in international relations from Minnesota State Mankato. She is state chair of the Minnesota State University Student Association, a statewide body representing the 75,000 students in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.
Miles said she’s willing to spend $205 a semester more to pay for better equipment, more internship opportunities and a raise for their professors.
To Miles and others, paying a little more to get a more marketable degree is worth it. She said keeping tuition flat will do nothing to reverse the legacy of the state’s lack of spending in higher education.
“ We’re facing the reality of our (student loan) debt in the most mature way possible,” she said.
The 97-mile walk from Mankato to St. Paul was an effort to demonstrate students’ commitment, said David Schieler, the only one of the three Minnesota State Mankato students to actually walk the full distance (the others walked about 50 miles).
The trek’s toll was apparent on Schieler’s battered legs, knees and feet as he limped up and down the Capitol’s many staircases. He fell once during the hike, hurting his knee and requiring a brace.
Though these students are willing to pay more, they also have ideas for how that money should be spent.
The portion of the money going to MnSCU hasn’t been set, though the state Senate’s original proposal set that figure at $80 million.
These students want some of that money, about $20 million, to be spent on new equipment.
Beth Madsen, a senior nursing student at Minnesota State Mankato, said the nursing school already has modern equipment, including machines that simulate disease and births. But it will soon be outdated, she said.
They also would like more internships. Schieler, a communications student, is looking for real-world experience but said students struggle to sacrifice work and study time for an unpaid internship.
New money would allow students to earn a $1,500 stipend on an internship, of which the school and employer would each pay half. This will also make companies and other institutions more eager to hire interns, Miles said.
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