One University student told the legislators who represent the University she struggled with the decision whether to finish her last semester at the University because she was in a financial pinch.
Veronica Jones, a University psychology student, spoke to Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, at Maroon and Gold Day on Wednesday at the State Capitol. The legislators met with students to discuss their concerns.
Jones said she didn’t get financial aid because it was her fifth year attending the University. She considered dropping out of college, because she didn’t know where the money would come from to pay tuition this semester.
She said her friends convinced her to do otherwise. Balancing work and school put her behind, she said.
“Honestly, I got off work and came straight here” to talk to the legislators, she said.
Kahn said she understood Jones’ situation. She said students are in a bind. They work to pay for school, but working sometimes delays their graduation date, Kahn said.
Approximately 400 people attended the event, which the University Legislative Network, Minnesota Student Association, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and various campus student governments sponsored.
Seeing the crowds wearing maroon and gold flock the Capitol and the State Office Building was “so great,” Kahn said.
Mike Dean, the Legislative Network’s grassroots coordinator, said the lobby day is just the first step in sending a unified message.
“It’s what we do afterwards that really makes a difference,” he said.
Jones’ story is one of effective lobbying.
Denny Schulstad, a University alumnus who spoke in the Capitol rotunda, said effective lobbying is making personal contacts.
“This makes just a huge, huge difference,” he said.
Mary Jo Kochendorfer, a University international business and marketing senior, said she lobbied long before Wednesday.
“It’s not that hard. It’s just saying you care,” she said.
She said she has sent letters to her legislator, Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville. So far, she said, she’s received two response letters.
During the small-group session, Pogemiller said he learned from undergraduate and graduate students that class sizes need to be smaller. It was the first time, he said, he had heard such a strong voice about it.
University graduate employee Marynel Ryan said graduate students are not compensated as well as they should be, especially compared with graduate students at other higher-education institutions.
Ryan said maintaining the University as an elite institution isn’t possible if graduate students aren’t sufficiently compensated.
Pogemiller said the University did better in the past compared to other institutions.
It’s one of the many concerns, he said, he plans to take up with University President Bob Bruininks.