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Sore-Footed Students Lobby Lawmakers

Walk to Capitol was intended to urge higher education funding.

Dan Linehan, Mankato Free Press, 5-14-2015

ST. PAUL — As they marched up to the Capitol steps, the cohort of Minnesota State University, Mankato students didn’t seem bedraggled or disheveled after their long walk.

They were just about jubilant, waving a Minnesota State Mankato flag and holding forth a banner. It read “#142Kfor142MILLION.”

They had just walked 142 kilometers — OK, most of them didn’t make the whole trip — in a bid to persuade legislators to budget $142 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System.

That’s how much it would take to freeze tuition, and it’s how much Gov. Mark Dayton budgeted. The House is now at 74 percent of that amount, the Senate at 60 percent.

The honor of longest walker went to Dennis Durst, a non-traditional student. Yes, out of all the young students who participated, only the middleage Navy veteran went the distance.

It helps that he’s run marathons before, but this was a four-day walk during which he covered at least 25 miles a day on the first three days. After the first day, he thought he wouldn’t make it, but a good night’s sleep did the trick. By the end of the trip, it was the bottoms of his feet that hurt the most.

Tien Bui almost made it the whole way but was felled near the end by a bum ankle.

The student who organized the walk, Joe Wolf, hopped out of the van that was shadowing the walkers and taped Bui’s ankle.

For his part, Wolf walked a few dozen miles. The geography major set up the trip for a simple reason: to show the legislators that students really care about these budget negotiations.

They were met on the steps by a swarm of cameras and a few influential legislators, including Sen. Terri Bonoff, a DFL senator from Minnetonka who chairs the higher education committee. Local legislators Jack Considine, DFL-Mankato, and Clark Johnson, DFL-North Mankato, gave them a tour of the Capitol.

They may have wanted to take a load off, but the students tramped up those steep Capitol steps and stayed on their feet.

Dayton was scheduled to meet with the students, but budget negotiations kept him away.

Instead, they were met by Larry Pogemiller, commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. The students wanted to make sure the governor at least knew about their hope for a $142 million increase.

“Oh, he knows that number,” Pogemiller said. “He knows that number.”

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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