Student group plans legislative agenda

A student legislative coalition will push intern protection and student-parent help.

Raj Chaduvula

The Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition hopes to advocate to state legislators and administrators this spring session about student issues such as graduate student-parents’ access to financial aid and protecting student interns. 
 
MSLC is promoting an expansion of the Postsecondary Child Care Grant Program, said Nick Wilson, executive director of the MSLC, at a Minnesota Student Association meeting last week. The state program grants undergraduate student-parents with financial aid.
 
Wilson said MSLC and members of the Council of Graduate Students and Professional Student Government are looking to expand the program.
 
“Graduate and professional students are ineligible for the award under the program. … What we would like to see is an expansion of that,” Wilson said. 
 
PSG President Kyle Kroll said the group is working on the platform with MSLC. He said the group hopes legislators will realize that resources, such as the grant program, can prove vital to graduate and professional students and should be extended to include them.
 
Susan Warfield, director of the Student Parent Help Center at the University of Minnesota, said she doesn’t believe extending the program to graduate and professional students will work.
 
“There’s not a very good chance that’s going to happen, because we’re talking about undergraduate funded aid,” she said. 
 
The funding from the Minnesota grant program is ear-marked for undergraduate students specifically, she said.
 
“It would be like going to the federal government and asking the Pell program to be extended to graduate students,” she said. 
 
She said the grant program is not only just for undergraduate students but for a specific demographic of the undergraduate population.
 
“The postsecondary child program isn’t just for undergraduate parents. It’s for first B.A. undergraduate students. It’s for the lowest income people to give them a foothold into higher ed, not to get people additional degrees,” she said.
 
However, Warfield was hopeful that the program could be expanded to not limit the grant to just four years of undergraduate study and extend the income bracket in which 
students are eligible.
 
The program also runs out after eight semesters, Warfield said.
 
Intern protection and budget
 
Wilson said MSLC is also looking to redefine what constitutes an intern and pass internship protection legislation, which would create remedies if an intern was discriminated against.
 
“So this means if there is a problem … they’ll be able to work through a recourse process within that business so that [interns] have protection under the law and can work that within that business because right now, there is little to no protection within the workplace,” Wilson said.
 
Wilson said redefining what an intern is would better distinguish interns and a paid employee. 
 
“We want to make sure that people who are doing that kind of work beyond an educational goal should be paid for the work that they are doing within that organization,” he said.
 
The group will also advocate for a supplemental budget request for the University, which Wilson said would help the school fund tuition relief for all students. 
 
Wilson said the group will push its goals during the upcoming legislative session this spring.