UMN Opposes Efforts to Ease Financial Burden on Students

Administrators and student leaders are pushing back against efforts to reduce costs for students

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ST. PAUL, Minn. – The University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges testified against two bills aimed at reducing costs for students.

Introduced by UMN alumnus Rep. Drew Christensen (R – Savage), HF 2197 and 2198 address student service fees, which have risen drastically over the last decade.

Student service fees are currently set at $432.18 per semester ($864.36 per year), compared to $305.10 in 2006.

Christensen’s first bill puts more power into the hands of the students, requiring a vote by the entire student body anytime there is an attempt to raise the student service fees.

His second bill would cut costs for students who don’t use the services funded through the fees by making paying the fees optional.

Both bills received pushback from representatives for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, as well as University of Minnesota administrators and student leaders during the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Policy and Finance Committee on March 14.

Christensen says while there is value in the extracurricular activities, it is unfair for the students not participating in the activities.

“It’s unfair for students to pay almost a thousand dollars a year in student fees to pay for clubs that they didn’t have time to be in because they were working two or three jobs to pay for college,” Christensen said.

University Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Danita Young Brown testified that the fees generate $33 million for the university annually.

“We believe these two bills, if enacted, will significantly affect our ability to deliver a world class educational experience for all of our students,” testified Young.

While several testifiers spoke against the bills, co-author Rep. Tony Albright (R – Prior Lake) questioned their motives, saying they had conflicts of interest due to their groups being funded by the student services fees.

“If we want to talk about student life, that’s all well and good, but not every person’s idea of student life is the same,” said Albright, “And to subject everyone to the same legitimacy of student life I think is a bit of a reach.”

Young said around 93 percent of the funds collected from student service fees support programs like Boynton Health, University Recreation and Wellness, Student Unions and Activities, University Student Legal Services, the Aurora Center and the Student Conflict Resolution Center, with the remaining funds going to other student groups.

Both bills have been laid over for possible inclusion in the Higher Education Omnibus bill.

 

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