March 14, 2011

Students urge legislators to keep the State Grant Program intact

 Hamline students spent a day at the Minnesota State Capitol to share their concerns about an issue that affects one of every four college students in the state.

 The Minnesota State Grant Program helps students from low and middle-income families pay for college. But, with a significant state deficit looming, funding could be scaled back, and students want to make sure that does not happen.

“It’s really essential and a huge part of the way many students pay for college,” first-year student and State Grant recipient Hassan Nuur said. “Cuts to the program would put a greater burden on families and could mean the difference between attending college or not.”

Nuur had meetings with two of his elected officials, State Representative Alice Hausman (DFL- 66B) and State Senator Ellen Anderson (DFL-66). Along with other Hamline students from his district, Nuur thanked the legislators for their past support and shared personal stories about why that funding is vital to students’ future.

“These meetings are an extremely powerful tool,” Hamline junior Joel Eaton said. “It’s much more effective than just sending them a letter or an email. It puts a face to the words that are being said, and it’s something that they can remember when they vote.”

Eaton is the president of the Hamline Undergraduate Student Congress, which partners with staff members at Hamline and staff at the Minnesota Private College Council to coordinate the annual day at the capitol visit. While some students have the opportunity to sit down and speak with their representatives for 15 minutes or more, most meetings take place briefly in a hallway between meetings or when students call their legislators off the House or Senate floor. Students also deliver hand-written notes to the offices of Governor Mark Dayton and key officials on the Higher Education Committee.

“I’m feeling really great about how things went today,” State Grant recipient and Hamline student Gavin Hart said. “I feel like we have support, and I’m pretty confident that they’ll do their best to sustain the program.”

With the State of Minnesota facing a $5 billion dollar deficit, legislators were hesitant to promise that there would not be cuts to the program. Statistics compiled by the Minnesota Private College Council show that thousands of students already lost their awards or saw their grant reduced for the 2010-11 academic year. To meet the needs of next year’s college students, the numbers show that the grant program needs more funding. It’s an issue that is so important to college students even those who do not receive the grant came to the capitol to urge support.

“I think education is the building block of the future,” Hamline junior Siri Opsal said. Opsal does not receive a State Grant but who knows several classmates who do. “We need an educated workforce and we need the State Grant to achieve that.”