Students have a say at the Capitol

Student Action Day presents a great opportunity to get involved.

It’s another legislative session and it seems the pattern of the state paying less for public education than what is needed will continue. This year, University President Bob Bruininks and the Board of Regents asked for a meager $155.5 million, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposed budget offers an inadequate $76.6 million. Recall when former Gov. Jesse Ventura offered only $150 million when the University was asking for close to $300 million.

There are two ways to make the budget work when the government does not provide proper funding or funding cannot be raised through donations. There will be cuts to programs and services or increased costs to students for tuition and fees.

The University can be commended for juggling cuts and tuition increases, but the regents can only do so much. Eventually, students will pay a lot more and receive a lot less.

That this goes on unchecked should not be surprising in such a polemic, political atmosphere. Some of our leaders, Democrat and Republican alike, have declared “no taxes,” but instead imposed “fees,” such as rising tuition. They have insisted on “self-preservation” – if you are a student you can pay your own way. This severely limits many students who have the mind but not the means to enter college.

These trends also continue because of the always-changing student body. In the four or five years students are enrolled, they rarely establish relationships with the administration or their legislators. Furthermore, the students involved in student government or similar groups have unfortunately done little to slow the tuition increases. If the students organized and unified their voices, there could be change.

Finally, students do not fully understand the power they have, especially concerning statewide elections. With the country and the state both politically divided, it is feasible for the young demographic to cast the deciding votes. Today presents a great opportunity to get engaged with our legislators, ask them the difficult questions and inform them that students have a say in what goes on at the Capitol.

Anyone who was excited to put Ventura in office only to see him fail to deliver for the University should be enamored with the opportunity to hold the governor and his “pay your own way” ideology accountable in 2006.

Adam Duininck is a University student. He welcomes comments at [email protected]