We represent the students of the Minnesota Internship Center. As high school students, we would like to have the option to attend the General College to prepare for our futures and ensure success in our university studies. The students we represent are not native-born. We are from Somalia, Ethiopia and Mexico. We have not been able to study English our entire lives. This does not mean we cannot reason or think. We want to be able to study more than English as a second language. We have interests in politics, science, mathematics and medical fields.
The General College is important for all of us, especially as English language-learner students. It is important because it gives us equal access to higher education. The General College is doing excellent work giving students the rights of education without regard to race, class or nationality, an opportunity that would be greatly diminished by the closure of this college.
The University of Minnesota is the largest public university in the state, and even though it is hoping to become the third top research university in the world, it should never be greedy and abandon its own students. As a civil society, we should want higher education to be available to everyone. It should not matter from what culture they come or what their economic status is. This right for education should not be determined by first language. Those of us who speak English as a second or third or even fifth language also have a right to higher education.
Even though the Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal, we know that not all are equal in terms of wealth or educational background. If only wealthy people are allowed to further their education, what will happen to the social justice in this country? In a 2000 survey, the average annual earning for those with bachelor’s degrees was $53,103, associate in arts degrees was $35,590, some college (no degree) $35,370, high school graduate $29,185 and nongraduates made $22,463. At the same time, the average living wage for a family of four in Minnesota was $34,135. It is easy to see that any person who wants to be a productive, taxpaying citizen of this state needs at least some college.
We too need access to education. We are the face of Minnesota. In Minnesota, more than 7 percent of the population is immigrants, and this number is expected to increase over the next decade. As members of this group, we can have a special impact on the future generations of Americans.
We feel that education plays an important part in a community. Education can reduce the number of gangsters in the community. If someone sees that they have an opportunity to become educated, they can live above the influence of other kids. This, in turn, brings safety to the communities. This will reduce police costs as well as other social costs. And access to education makes each and every one of us more informed citizens. We as immigrants will better understand our rights as well as our responsibilities. By being able to obtain a higher education, we will be able to take care of our families, make more money and need less assistance. This will truly be a way to leave no child behind.
The General College welcomes diversity of cultures and backgrounds without discrimination. It offers unique opportunities to thousands of students around the state. Now is not the time to close this access and make receiving advanced education a difficult, if not impossible, task for new as well as native-born citizens of this great state.
Please take this opportunity to contact University President Bob Bruininks and the Regents and tell them the closing of the General College is a bad idea and a betrayal of a land grant University’s mandate. Thank you for caring.
This letter was signed by 56 students from John Breyfogle’s Minnesota Internship Center history class. Please send comments to [email protected]