Board of Trustee Testimony
March 20, 2019

Chair Vekich, Chancellor Malhotra, and members of the Board. My name is Frankie Becerra and I am the President of LeadMN – College Students Connecting for Change. Today, I want to discuss the governor’s budget for higher education.

Before I do, I want to discuss the recent indictments in higher education. This past week, the college admissions scandal has awoken America’s collective consciousness to the fact that our higher education system is fundamentally broken.

Students like me are told to believe that through hard work, dedication, and talent we can achieve our dreams and find a pathway to the middle class through higher education. But now more than ever it is clear that the path is determined by one’s zip code. That those without the means to buy their way to an education after high school will have to overcome the many systematic barriers that have been used to exclude people from higher education.

Unfortunately, the governor’s proposed budget will exclude many more people from higher education because of the potential tuition increases that would follow. In a recent House higher education committee hearing we heard legislators talk about tuition increases as high as 8% under the governor’s proposed budget.

Over the last six years Minnesota moved from the 3rd highest tuition in the nation to the 8th for community and technical colleges. We cannot afford to go backwards on this progress.

Even a tuition increase of 3% would likely send Minnesota back to the top five most expensive states. That 3% tuition increase would mean students will have $160 less for food, rent, and their children. While $160 may not seem like a lot of money to most people, it means a lot to the students that I represent. Our students already struggle with tough decisions like whether they can afford to pay for diapers, as Matthew Benjamin told the Senate Higher Education Finance and Policy committee on March 5. Or they have to delay buying textbooks for weeks into the school year because an unexpected car repair ate up all their money, as Julia Yates shared with the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Division on January 30.

While State and Federal Grants help make college more affordable, many of our students are still struggling to complete a college degree because those grants do not cover the full cost of their education. A recent study by LeadMN, which utilized a formula developed by the National College Access Network, found that the affordability gap ranges from $1,177 at Mesabi Range to $11,180 at Minneapolis College. Our students simply cannot afford to have the cost of college rise further.

The governor shared with the Bemidji Pioneer why he did not fully fund Minnesota State’s request: His answer: And I quote "Both the chancellor and the president of the University of Minnesota did not make a solid case when they came in for why their budget needs to be filled." End quote

I would like to leave you today with a question. Why should students be left to pay the price for Minnesota State not making a solid case to the governor?

End of testimony.