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John Runningen expects to have $15,000 to $20,000 in debt by the time he finishes studying to become a social studies teacher. That amounts to nearly a third of a typical teacher's salary in Minnesota, and entry-level teachers often take home less.

He knows his student loan payments will be a strain.

"Many students that I've been able to talk to have experienced a lot of the same financial struggles and instabilities," said Runningen, a student leader who is enrolled at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls.

So Runningen and other students plan to lobby state lawmakers for financial relief and help covering their basic needs. With many other sectors competing for a slice of the state's historic $17.6 billion surplus, they'll face competition — and inquiries from lawmakers who have questions about the ballooning costs and declining enrollment at Minnesota's higher education institutions.

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