By Tim Krohn email@example.com
The Mankato Free Press
---- — MANKATO — Michael Hanson figures two pairs of shoes should be plenty for the three-day walk from Mankato to St. Paul. It's the socks that are more important.
"You have to change socks a lot when they get wet and prevent the blisters," said Hanson, who's done several long treks before, not to mention plenty of hiking during his five years of active Army duty.
Hanson and fellow Minnesota State University students David Schieler and Trevor Granberg left the campus early Saturday morning, while student Chris Collins drove a car to support them. The four Student Senate members will log some 30 miles a day and meet with state lawmakers at the Capitol on Tuesday.
"This is a tangible, visible event that will show support for education," Hanson said. "It's scary the amount of student loans I'll have to pay back. Almost overwhelming."
The students, who will be joined by van loads of other students Tuesday, will advocate for the $97 million funding request made to the Legislature by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.
"This 97-mile walk for $97 million is all about students and student success," said MSU provost Linda Baer, referring to the $97 million in new funding sought by MnSCU. "Without adequate support from the Legislature we may face more students who can't afford their education."
Baer said the improved economic conditions mean the state should put a focus on education funding.
Schieler said the importance of education to the economy and well being of the state is recognized by residents, as evidenced by the support the walkers have from businesses and people along the route who have volunteered to feed and house them.
"The hospitality small businesses and small communities have given us is great. They see this as a high need for the state," Schieler said.
The students will stay the first night in Waterville where residents are supplying meals and accommodations. Sunday night they will stay in Lakeville and Monday night they will stay in St. Paul.
The first leg of the journey and Sunday morning's trek is along the Sakatah Singing Hills trail, which runs from Mankato to Faribault.
MSU student leaders did similar walks in 2010 and 2011.
The House and Senate have passed higher education funding bills, whose differences are now being hammered out in conference committee.
The House bill spends $2.7 billion over two years for MnSCU and the University of Minnesota. It contains $150 million in new funding and requires a freeze on undergraduate tuition.
The Senate bill spends $2.8 billion. The Senate bill funds a tuition freeze for the University of Minnesota but does not freeze MnSCU tuition, instead prohibiting MnSCU from raising tution by more than 3 percent a year. Senators argued that MnSCU needs the latitude to raise tuition because the system is in need of new investments to boost quality.