U students lobby for higher ed support

Students from every University campus rallied at the Capitol on Thursday for Support the U Day.

Cody Nelson

University of Minnesota students filled the state Capitol rotunda on Thursday to rally for higher education support from state legislators.

Students from all University campuses joined together for Support the U Day and met with legislators throughout the afternoon to discuss issues like tuition rates, medical amnesty and student debt.

The day began with a rally that included speeches from students, state legislators and President Eric Kaler.

One of the speakers, Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona wore a red sweater to symbolize the need to “stop the bleeding of higher education,” he said.

Kaler said he was “thrilled” by Gov. Mark Dayton’s support of the University in his State of the State address Wednesday night.

“We need to do everything we can to make the University affordable and accessible for qualified Minnesota students,” he said.

Matt Forstie, Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition Chairman, said the MSLC is also supportive of the governor’s budget.

“There’s nothing in it that we disagree with,” he said.

Forstie said student turnout from the Twin Cities campus at Support the U Day has been “extremely low” in past years, but this year’s turnout improved.

More than 400 students pre-registered to attend, Forstie said.

Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, said meeting with students is important for legislators because it “puts a face to the numbers,” but it’s important students meet with representatives of their home district.

Rep. Pelowski said it’s important students continue to follow up with legislators throughout the session.

“There hasn’t been a follow through and what have the results been?” Pelowski said. “The biggest cuts in the history of the state, the biggest tuition increases in the history of the state.”

Students said legislators were receptive to concerns, but economics freshman Ryan Olson said the representatives he met with were “apprehensive” regarding how they want to fund the University.

Zerwas said high administrative spending at the University was discussed with students.

“We need to make sure that the legislature is working close with President Kaler to make sure that the University is operating in the best interest of the students,” Zerwas said.