MnSCU Students March To Protest Tuition Hikes

By Holly Wagner, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO/AP) — Around 400 students from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system rallied on the steps of the Capitol against tuition increases.

The students chanted, “Tuition is a tax, keep it off our backs!” Many in the crowd wore red caps with the word “tuition” on them because they’re asking for a tuition cap.

They marched to the Capitol from St. Paul College.

The group, Student Tuition is Overpriced, organized the rally as a Senate Committee prepares to hold a hearing this afternoon on a bill that would freeze tuition rates at state colleges and universities for the next two years.

Among the speakers was Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, is one of the authors of the bill. He told the crowd the state has to stop balancing the budgets of universities on the backs of students.

Travis Johnson is a student at Lake Superior College and the President of Minnesota State College Student Association. Johnson says he’s working 40 hours a week and taking out loans to put himself through school.

He says tuition at Minnesota’s public colleges as increased by 100 percent in the last decade. The state’s two year colleges are ranked the third most expensive in the country.

“We need to do something to limit these increases,” he said.

Andrew Spaeth is a student at Bemidji State University and the chair of Minnesota State University Student Association. He says he’s not only worried about his tuition costs, but also for future generations. He’s one of nine children in his family.

“My youngest brother is 7 years old. If we continue on this same trend, by the time he’s a college student, he’ll pay double what I paid for a public higher education,” Spaeth said. “I don’t even want to think about what kind of debt he would carry after four or five years in college. It’s a scary thought.”

Sheila Wright, director of the Office of Higher Education, told the crowd the budget Gov. Mark Dayton proposed Tuesday seeks to protect grant programs for college students.

Lawmakers from both the DFL and Republican parties took part in the students rally at the Capitol.

Dayton’s budget includes $171 million in cuts to higher education.

NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Bruce Hagevik Reports

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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