Students, economy need fall break

One way to make a quick $72,000 is to implement an autumn break from class. It certainly worked for a University of Colorado-Boulder student. During Boulder’s first autumn break, which occurred in fall of 2000, student Brian Johnson turned a trip to Las Vegas into instant cash.

“I had hit two $180 slot machines, a $200 slot, I won $160 at the roulette table and had basically paid for my entire trip,” Johnson said. “I went and cashed out and was walking by the high stakes slot room with $ 1,000 in my hand, so I decided I’d go play a $100 slot for the hell of it. I put in a $100 bill and with the first pull, I got $72,000.”

If the University followed the lead of other major universities such as Boulder, the potential cash flow could be much more than $72,000, nearly $5,971,300 more. Not money for students or for the University, but rather money to boost the much-maligned tourism industry. An autumn break, which typically constitutes a four-day weekend in early to mid-October, would free the 38,847 undergraduates to enjoy an extended weekend. This in turn would compel many students to relax, live a little and spend a little.

The many universities that have implemented an autumn break point out the need for students to get caught up in school, visit friends and family, relieve stress and combat seasonal health problems. These reasons alone are valid enough for the University to implement an autumn break. But they are not the only ones and right now, they are not even the most compelling. Our governor pleaded on national television for more Minnesotans to travel. St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman has assembled a special task force to combat the stalled tourism market. Major layoffs are occurring throughout the industry. Meanwhile, the University has 38,847 potential tourists, plus another 10,761 graduate students.

If the University were to enact an autumn break, not all these students would suddenly pack up and head for resorts across the state. Instead, some might visit family, others might take a drive and some might just go shopping. Yet these activities are no small potatoes. In fact, according to the Minnesota Office of Tourism, these are the three most popular activities for in-state tourists. And Minnesotans comprise more than half of all travelers in Minnesota’s billion-dollar tourism industry.

To put it in real terms, if undergraduates spent, on average, an extra $25 per day while on break, it would inject $3,884,700 into the economy. And if all of the 60,433 students at the University spent an extra $25 per day over the four-day break, it would be an incredible $6,043,300 stimulant. Those are a lot of reasons to find a cost-effective way to implement an October break.