The Star Tribune headline says it all, "Minnesota State will allow schools to raise fees despite tuition freeze." LeadMN President John Runingen testified before the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees against the proposal to allow student fees to be raised by $243.
The Star Tribune report - "'The legislative language is clear that Minn State can not raise any mandatory student fees,' John Runningen, president of LeadMN, which represents college students, told trustees in a public meeting Tuesday. 'To do so violates the state law and breaks the trust of the Legislature.'"
Read John's full testimony below
Chair Cowles, members of the Board, I am John Runningen, the president of LeadMN, and I am here before you to urge you to delay this vote on raising the student fee maximums. Last month I raised multiple concerns that I believe need to be looked at and addressed:
The first primary concern was the lack of consultative and collaborative processes for the community and technical college students,
The second concern is the ambiguous definitions of the fees that allow them to become a slush fund for campuses.
And third, the need for more oversight of these fees to ensure that board policy is enforced as intended.
While we have met with Vice Chancellor Maki several times in the last month, our concerns haven’t been addressed by telling us that we can manage our concerns in the future. We believe they need to be discussed during the policy review because our concerns are not a procedure issues but a policy one.
Today, I don’t want to revisit those concerns but instead want to discuss the legality of raising mandatory fees in light of the omnibus higher education bill that the governor will sign this week. The legislation states, “The student tuition relief may not be offset by increases in mandatory fees, charges, or other assessments to the student.”
The legislative language is clear that Minn State can not raise any mandatory student fees. To do so violates the state law and breaks the trust of legislative leaders. In addition, the legislature just made a historic investment in our colleges and universities, with $75 million being allocated to pay for a tuition and fee freeze for students. Throughout the session, legislators heard from students about our concerns about skyrocketing tuition, and to now turn around and allow campuses to increase student fees by $243 is frankly an insult.
It plays right into the arguments made on the floor of the House and Senate. Despite these significant increases in state funding, the U of M was still raising student tuition and failing to protect students from out-of-control spending. Now you are providing that same talking point for Minnesota State.
This proposal is bad politics and sends the wrong message to elected officials. After giving historic funding to the system, the system is looking at raising costs. Legislators will view this as Minnesota colleges and universities can not be trusted to keep costs in line, so why continue to give them more money?
While you may hope that in two years legislative leaders will forget about the action you take here today, I know they will not. And when they attempt to send this board a message with less funding, the true victim in that process will be students by increasing costs and decreasing quality.