U students address higher tuition in front of House committee

Minnesota Student Association President Tom Zearley told a House committee Wednesday that the University’s success depends on support from the state, students and the entire community.

“Without all of these pieces, the University will not continue to be a leading university,” he said.

As part of the University’s Maroon and Gold Day at the State Capitol, Zearley and Bryan Fisher, the University’s Morris campus’ Student Legislative Coalition chairman, addressed the House Higher Education Finance Committee on how tuition increases have affected the University.

The students also praised Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s budget recommendation, which has improved since the last recommendation two years ago, Zearley said.

Zearley said state support is still very important.

“Students are willing to take a 5.5 percent tuition increase but not a double-digit increase,” he said.

The speeches were only introductory conversations, Zearley said. In the coming months, he said, he hopes to have more face-to-face meetings with legislators and even more student presence at the Capitol.

Fisher said student representation will require a joint effort across all University campuses, which include approximately 65,000 students across the entire state.

Zearley said, “We want to start a dialogue between legislators and students and make them know that we care and we’re paying attention.”

Committee Chairman Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said he appreciated hearing the students’ perspectives and welcomes more testimonies from them in the future.

“It’s always helpful to hear directly from students. They were genuinely concerned,” he said.

To continue their efforts, members of MSA and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly said they are planning to hold another meeting with legislators on the committee by next month.

University students were not the only voices at the meeting.

Faculty members and employees of the University’s Extension Service, from county fair volunteers to farmers, addressed the decreased funding to agricultural programming and research.

The Extension Service provides educational programming and research in the areas of land, food and environmental development as well as community, family and youth development.

The service, which includes 18 regional centers across the state, experienced an 11 percent reduction in state support, said Charles Casey, the Extension Service dean.