LeadMN President John Runningen delivered the following testimony to the Minnesota State Board of Trustees.
Chair Moe, Chancellor Maholtra, members of the Board of Trustees.
My name is John Runningen and I am the President of LeadMN. I am here to raise concerns regarding the Board’s plan to raise student fees and its changes to Board Policy 5.11.1. LeadMN urges the board to reconsider and refer these changes back to the Chancellor so that students and student associations can participate in a genuinely collaborative consultation process.
The Chancellor’s office and campuses failed to allow students, student senates, and student associations to be part of the process of changing board policy 5.11.1. These policy changes could raise student fees by $243 per student and create a new student fee. If the Board is going to take action to increase the cost of to attend college, students should have a say in the process.
The Board’s new policy states that “All tuition and fees are subject to the student consultation requirements as defined by Policy 2.3 Student Involvement in Decision-making and associated system procedures.” Yet this process failed to do exactly that.
While some may suggest that consultation will occur later, I believe that it is absolutely critical that students should be consulted on the rules governing their fees and when new fees are created. Five years ago, when this policy was last reviewed, there was a statewide committee that included student representatives at the table. This time the Chancellor’s office worked behind the scenes on changes and failed to allow for student input until the general public comment period. Which is too late for true consultation.
During the public comment period, LeadMN sent a letter expressing concerns on behalf of students. But not a single change was made to the process.
Policy 5.11.1 is broken. Students have understood and been saying this for years. The biggest issue is that there is no clear definition of fees and what they are appropriately used for. The Board cannot allow student fees to be just another source of revenue without an appropriate definition on spending in these areas. Student Life fees are becoming a fund for any general campus spending - whether for athletic programs, or student life staff fulfilling academic obligations around graduation. Student life fees have even been used to pay for student’s diplomas. These are academic activities that campuses are using student life dollars to pay for.
I urge the Board of Trustees to involve students and engage in a real collaborative process. Over the next month you will have the opportunity to define what you mean by collaborative relationship. Is collaboration where we work together to find a mutually beneficial outcome or is it a term to use to hide behind in order to silence the voices that you disagree with?
The proposal regarding Policy 5.11.1 should be sent back to the Chancellor’s office for a real review that engages and accepts input from community and technical college students who pay these fees.