State legislators to speak on education issues, listen to citizen concerns

K.C. Howard

Jeff Rother knows the value of a good education.

The 54-year-old student drives 52.1 miles to school everyday at North Hennepin Community College.

“Depending on morning traffic – and Highway 65 is as bad as some of them can get – it takes about 50 minutes to an hour to come here,” he said. “You do what you’ve got to do.”

Lately Rother, vice president of the college’s student senate, has been working extra hours. In preparation for the next legislative session and a war to win more funding for higher education in the state, Rother organized two forums this week with state legislators and students, faculty and administrators from colleges and universities statewide.

“Everyone is invited,” said Rother, who will mediate the discussions between legislators and the audience. “Everything having to do with higher education is fair game.”

The higher education conference will occur Monday and Thursday, 12:30 p.m. -2:30 p.m. at North Hennepin Community College in the fine arts auditorium.

“We thought, well gee, what if we invited a whole bunch of these people for a week; what would they have to do? Would they maybe have to vote the way their constituency wants them to vote?” Rother said.

Approximately 165 invitations were sent to state legislators. Several House Higher Education Committee members said they plan to attend.

But members of the Senate’s Capital Investment Committee – who will help define the University’s bonding bill next session – will not be present Monday. The committee will tour the University’s Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses.

Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, a member of the higher education committee, said meetings like this are important before a session because policy-makers need to hear the students’ perspective.

“I remember a few years ago when we had the school of journalism before us. We had input from administration and faculty, but students got actively involved to explain their perspective,” Carlson said. “That was one contributing factor Ö and that happens on campus after campus.”

Rother, who is working toward degrees in marketing and management, agrees with Carlson. He worked for more than 30 years in retail management with nothing but a high school diploma.

“I think we all know education is the answer, and always has been and always will be,” he said.

K.C. Howard welcomes comments at [email protected]