Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Students lobby for grant money at 'Day at the Capitol' event

By Riley Brown
Cardinal Staff

Saint Mary’s University students will take their annual trip to the Minnesota State Capitol on Thursday, March 31 to advocate for the Minnesota State Grant Program to make college tuition more affordable.

“Day at the Capitol” is an event put on by the Minnesota Private College Council (MPCC) that provides students a chance to talk to two of their state legislators regarding the Minnesota State Grant Program, said Kevin Halpin, student senate vice president for external affairs.

The need for state funding is important now more than ever, as a current shortfall of 18,000 students are not getting grants they otherwise would have, said Halpin. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton must cut budget costs to fill a $6.1 billion deficit, putting student grants at risk. Despite the deficit, Dayton said he would support grant funding.

Currently, SMU’s tuition cost is $29,506 yearly, but with the grant program, some students pay around half of that amount. According to the MPCC, 25 percent of college students come from families with incomes below $50,000, and MPCC provides 80,000 Minnesota students with grants—60,000 of whom are enrolled in private colleges.

“State Grant funds help one out of four Minnesota college students, making it possible for them to earn the degrees that will prepare them to contribute to the state’s economic success,” said Paul Pribbenow, board chair for the MPCC.

SMU students who wish to participate in “Day at the Capitol” take a free bus ride to the Capitol, which leaves at 7:30 a.m. the day of the event. Students will arrive at the Capitol around 10 a.m. and undergo a brief training before meeting with their state legislators to share experiences.

Students who attend will “get to inform lawmakers and gain a greater understanding of state politics and civic engagement,” said Ali Kremer, student senate president. Additionally, this year students attending “Day at the Capitol” will have the option to go on tours of the Capitol put on by the Minnesota Historical Society and tours of the Capitol’s media facilities. A free Perkins breakfast will also be provided, along with $10 for lunch. The bus will return to SMU at 4:30 p.m.

On March 29, MPCC representative Dennis Eagan will provide a training and information session prior to Day at the Capitol’s lobby. Free pizza will be included.

For more information or to sign up for Day at the Capitol, e-mail Kevin Halpin at Registration will be held March 14-18.

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