Fighting for free tuition

Nicola Brambilla- Students for a Democratic Society

As a normal college student, I spend several hours each day on Reddit. Whether I look at cats, “Tim and Eric” videos or GIFs, I always have a great time. The other day, though, I was on the front page, and a post caught my eye that wasn’t mindless visual stimulation; it was a story on education rights.

In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam recently announced a plan for making community and other two-year colleges free for every Tennessee high school graduate. Haslam is quoted, speaking with the simplicity of “Flappy Bird” or a credit card commercial, “Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future, priceless.”Similar measures are active in states such as New Mexico and proposed in Mississippi and Oregon. Many states have modified versions of this policy.

This got me thinking: Why aren’t students fighting for free tuition in Minnesota?

These are the facts: Minnesota should be the leader of affordable and quality education, but currently, Minnesota is failing. Tuition for students has more than doubled over the past decade, causing students to take on more student loans and debt. Across the United States, students have more than $1 trillion of student debt. This is crushing young adults who will have to deal with the burden of debt for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Section 12 of the University of Minnesota’s original charter states that if “the income of the University fund will permit, tuition in all of the Departments shall be without charge to all students in the same, who are residents of the Territory.” So there is precedent for the state to enact legislation such as in Tennessee. It would make political and economic sense, too, by not only opening up the University to more students who previously could not afford it, but also keeping the cream of the crop in the state. Free tuition is an effective way to reverse “brain drain” to other states, stimulating the economy by retaining Minnesota’s smartest and most talented individuals.

Unfortunately, there is no effort in Minnesota to push for more affordable education. Eric Kaler’s administration has made it clear that keeping up higher salaries for top administrative positions is more important than keeping tuition low.

I urge all students to get involved in the fight for educational rights by joining Students for a Democratic Society. SDS is actively putting pressure on the administration and the state Legislature for a reduction in tuition, with the ultimate goal of having free tuition for every Minnesota high school graduate.