www.WDIO.com

Duluth Students Speak Up About The Budget

Posted at: 03/28/2013 8:33 PM
Updated at: 03/28/2013 10:54 PM
By: Brittany Falkers

These days, it's rare to meet a college graduate without debt.  Many take on the burden of loans as a necessity.  While scholarships can make a big difference it takes a lot more than wishful thinking to get that degree.

That's why Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton asked the Director of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education to travel the state to gain insight from students about what does and does not work for them.  Pogemiller met with college students from area schools Thursday at the University of Minnesota to discuss Dayton's budget proposal.

Dayton's budget proposal aims to alleviate some of that stress with a $262 million dollar investment in higher education.  It's the largest percentage increase in 25 years and the largest dollar increase in the state grant program ever, according to Pogemiller.

"The key elements are direct investment in the University of Minnesota for research, freezing tuition, and direct investment in financial aid directly to students and families to help them lower their debt loads," Pogemiller said. 

Many aspects of the budget's effect on higher education were discussed at Thursday's forum, but financial aid and tuition increases stayed top of mind.

"Every year, tuition is being increased and we're still getting the same amount [of financial aid]. So they're expecting more money, but I'm getting less and less compared to that tuition," Amy Hill, a junior at the College of St. Scholastica said.

Pogemiller says a big part of Dayton's budget is to balance that discrepancy. "We'll get the tuition within the grant program up to the realistic level of what they pay.  Today, the way the system is set up, is about $3,000 less than what a student pays at the university," he said.

Another big topic at Thursday's forum, balancing a job and school. Hill is paying for college on her own.  Although she receives financial aid, she says she needs to work to make ends meet.

"Last year I worked to jobs, anywhere from 50 to 70 hours a week. This year I cut it down, but once you cut things down you get more debt," she said.

UMD Senior, Blair Moses will graduate this May, but agrees that it's hard to find a balance between work and school.  He says it can really take a toll on your studies as well.

"It does take away from what you're doing academically and that's very sad to see. So, that's where this budget and that assistance can really help out," Moses said.

Here is how Dayton's proposed $262 million investment in higher education breaks down:

About $80 million will go to the Minnesota state grant program.  This will expand financial aid eligibility to more than 5,000 students.

Another $80 million to the University of Minnesota.  This money will help fund research and innovation as well as help hold the line on tuition increases. 

$80 million more will broaden internships, provide equipment and help retain high-quality-faculty throughout the Minnesota Colleges and Universities system.

Pogemiller will now take input from Thursday's forum back to Governor Dayton.