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Students ask legislators for aid: Day at the Capitol organized to help college students advocate

On March 13, Concordia students will advocate for better government student aid at Minnesota’s Day at the Capitol by meeting with state legislators.

Meg Henrickson attended the Day at the Capitol last year. She was excited to share her experience.

“It went really well. We were going there to thank them last year,” Henrickson said. “This year we will be going to argue and get them to see what we’re seeing.”

All Concordia students are being encouraged to attend the Day at the Capitol. By attending this day, they will represent Minnesota private colleges by meeting with legislators nearest to the students’ hometowns or, if students are from out of state, their colleges.

The Minnesota Private College Council plans the schedule for the students and meets with the students beforehand to give them current facts and figures as well as tips and confidence for meeting with the legislators.

Jim Hausmann, Concordia’s government relations liaison, has attended the trip to advocate for years.

“Minnesota has an excellent student aid program,” Hausmann said. “The problem is it doesn’t have enough money in it. So the focus in the near future is to work on Minnesota student aid which does actually help everybody at Concordia.”

The public voice is the source of the legislator’s decision-making. By letting them know where the problems are and what should be improved, students can influence their lawmakers. If no one shows up to advocate on an issue, Hausmann explained, the legislators assume that there is no problem. For this reason, the attendance of students to Day at the Capitol is important in getting issues vocalized.

In aiding Minnesota Private Colleges, there is plenty of room for improvement.

“Over the years, federal and state financial aid have not kept up with rising costs and a stagnant economy,” he said. “So while there might be a slight amount more money, there are more students and costs are higher, so financial aid doesn’t go as far as it used to.”

Hausmann said higher education has two main issues that must be dealt with: access and choice. While public institutions provide students access to higher education, they do not allow students as much choice in attending the school that will best meet their needs.

To fully meet student needs, a variety of schools are needed, such as tech, nursing, university and liberal arts colleges. Hausmann’s goal is to help students attend the school of their choice with as little financial stress as possible.

Though Minnesota private and non-profit schools account for one-third of the students and one-third of the degrees, these students receive only two percent in financial aid available from the state. Conversely, the University of Minnesota and other Minnesota state colleges and universities receive 44 percent of the state’s financial aid budget.

The aid doesn’t seem evenly spread to Concordia student Christie Kullman.

“Some get a lot and others not really anything, so it should be more even,” she said. Like many other private college students, she believes higher education can and should be more affordable.

Hausmann asks some important questions of those who might not see why he cares about this issue.

“Where do you think private school students came from?” he questions. “And where do they end up? And what did their parents do for the 18 years before they got here? They were paying their taxes. When the students graduate, they are going to take a roll in society and are going to pay taxes. [Minnesota Private Schools] are part of the public good.”

Henrickson says it was really worthwhile to attend last season’s Day at the Capitol.

“I’m majoring in political science, so it was especially fun,” says Henrickson. “State policies impact us a great deal. It was good to actually meet these people and hear where they come from and connect with them.”

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