The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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August 31, 2009

MSU students demonstrate

CAP concerns inspire displeasure

MANKATO — Students from Minnesota State University’s College Access Program took to the campus mall Monday, waving placards and voicing displeasure over financial aid glitches, discrimination, and the movement of the very program that brought them here out of the office of Institutional Diversity.

Between 25 and 35 students assembled shortly after 11 a.m. and quickly formed chaotic, yet clearly organized demonstrations.

Placards emblazoned with peace symbols and slogans such as “Education not discrimination,” “Fix it,” and “Say no!” bobbed up and down as students sang a repeating chant of “I want to free, the academics in me!”

To the average passerby, the message may have seemed slightly muddled. Some speakers spoke of financial aid screw ups while others talked about the rumored dissolving of the popular College Access Program, or CAP.

The program — where the kind of students who don’t typically make it to college come for a second chance with a program that is highly intrusive in their lives, and overwhelmingly supportive — began in 2006 with a few dozen students and has grown dramatically.

CAP students have an extraordinary retention rate — about 90 percent — and they are fiercely loyal to the program. The program, in turn, keep tabs on students as they make their way through college.

At Monday’s demonstration, the financial aid issue appeared to be the most urgent. Thirty-four students were randomly selected to have their information audited by the organization that administers the application for financial aid. All college students must complete the application to be eligible for any aid.

For whatever reason, 34 students — about half the students in CAP — were unable to complete the process to get their financial aid. Because of that, they were unable to pay tuition and fee bills from the summer. And anyone with unpaid tuition bills from one semester cannot enroll in another.

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