Dayton blasts funding choices

Amy Horst

Politicians at the state and national level are neglecting students and treating them unfairly at higher-education institutions, three legislators said Saturday.

Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., spoke to a group of approximately 100 students in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system in Bloomington, Minn. State Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, and state Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, also talked to the students.

The three legislators said students are bearing the brunt of local and national lawmakers’ mistakes.

“The federal role (in higher education) is shamefully under-funded, even more so than the state,” Dayton said.

“In Washington, our main

issues are avoid the budget, avoid the budget and avoid the budget,” Dayton said, referring to Carlson’s comment that the main issues for state politicians are “the budget, the budget and the budget.”

Dayton said federal lawmakers, unlike state lawmakers, do not have to balance the budget, which has led to fiscal irresponsibility in Washington, D.C.

He also talked about the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, a massive act best known for determining how much money goes to federal higher-education loans and grants.

Dayton said he thinks the U.S. Congress will avoid the act this session, but he hopes he can help bring it to the table and increase the amount of financial aid available – particularly for grants and work-study.

To that end, he said he will introduce legislation next week called the “Restore the Dream Act,” which will propose more money for Pell Grants, Perkins loans and other financial aid.

Dayton said Minnesota also needs to make higher education a larger priority.

“For a state that values education as much as we do, it is frightening for us to tell you, ‘by the way, we’re not going to help you pay for college,’ ” Dayton said. “It is so hypocritical that I’m ashamed of my generation.”

Pappas also discussed higher education, touching on issues such as high credit-card debt among college students and rising numbers of nontraditional students.

She also talked about the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, a federal bill which would charge domestic tuition to illegal immigrants who graduate from high school in the United States.

Currently, those students must pay international tuition.

Students in the MnSCU system should also unite to lobby for better funding for their respective schools, Pappas said. She would like to see students at those universities hold one large lobby day rather than lobby separately, as they did this year, she said.

“Don’t buy into the argument that there is a limited slice of the pie,” Pappas told the students. “This is one of the wealthiest states in the nation.”

Jake Overgaard, a political science junior at Bemidji State University who attended the talk, said it is important for him to know that politicians care about students.

“It’s good to hear these

people come in and say you can do this,” he said. “It gives us

reason to keep fighting for what we’ve been fighting for.”