Student senators push for high funding for higher ed.

They’ll have a chance to advocate at the Capitol during the Rally to Restore Affordability, formerly Support the U Day.

by Cali Owings

Student senators are preparing to advocate for more state funding for the University of Minnesota through the biennial budget request.

During ThursdayâÄôs meeting, representatives from the colleges on the Twin Cities campus as well as coordinate campuses were briefed on the state of the UniversityâÄôs budget. Challenges cited included maintaining a high standard of education despite forecasted budget cuts in the upcoming session, especially with the uncertainty of how the new governor will work with a Republican Legislature.

The focus in the Legislature will be on the higher education committees and reaching out to the new members who might not understand the importance of the University in the state, Donna Peterson, associate vice president for government and community relations for the University, said.

Peterson said committee Chair Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, who chaired the committee before the DFL won the majority in 2006, was experienced in working with the University.

Student Senate chairman Aaron Carlson and Peterson encouraged student senators to interact with their legislators to increase support for the University.

âÄúItâÄôs not about if we are going to be cut, but by how much?âÄù Peterson said, adding that the University is âÄúplaying defenseâÄù against inevitable cuts.

ItâÄôs important for student leaders to meet with lawmakers and appeal to them on a personal level about how their college experience would be affected by more budget cuts, Peterson said.

Another useful argument, Peterson said, was to sell the investment power of the University.

âÄúWe heard this strong message during the campaigns âÄî that investments in the state need to create jobs in the private sector,âÄù she said.

If students sit down with legislators and explain to them what they are studying and how they plan to stay in Minnesota after graduation, they will start to see the value in higher education, she said.

Luke Nichols, a student senator representing the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, said he would like to see area representatives meet with the Student Senate sometime in the future.

âÄúI think it would be a great opportunity for students to participate in the dialogue,âÄù Nichols said.

Student government representatives have their calendars marked for Feb. 22, when they will head to the Capitol for the Rally to Restore Affordability.

The rally, which was previously called Support the U Day, is an opportunity for students to stand up for more state financial support of higher education at the Capitol.

Nick Saab, Legislative Affairs director for the Minnesota Student Association, which coordinates the event, said the name change was brought about by the popularity of comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen ColbertâÄôs Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington D.C.

Carlson said he wanted to see the coordinate campuses become more involved in lobbying efforts at the Capitol. He said he hoped members of the Legislative Certificate Program here would find their counterparts at coordinate campuses to make sure their concerns are being addressed, too.

In addition, Carlson said he would like to receive information from University chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter at a Student Senate Consultative Committee meeting or senate meeting about what areas will be affected by budget cuts.