The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 3, 2009

MSU speaks to CAP issue

By Robb Murray

MANKATO — Minnesota State University has assured the students in the College Access Program that it will do anything it can to help anyone who is having trouble getting their financial aid.

The assurances were made during a meeting Thursday between CAP students and MSU President Richard Davenport, Provost Scott Olson and Vice President for Finance and Administration Rick Straka.

CAP students led a demonstration Monday that included a march up to Davenport’s office. Davenport, however, was unavailable, and his absence led several students to suggest he was avoiding the group and their issues.

Some of the students — the university said the number is in the 20s, the CAP students say the number is 34 — have had to verify their status as financial aid recipients, and some had failed to follow all the necessary steps by the July deadline.

But a counselor with the CAP program said some of the students who missed the deadline only missed because MSU’s financial aid office lost or misplaced a student’s documents.

MSU spokesman Michael Cooper said that during Wednesday’s meeting, Davenport said the university will do everything in its power to make sure the students can remain in school.

About 100 people attended the meeting.

“The president has vowed to find solutions for the students quickly,” Cooper said. “I think the students were satisfied with the answers they got ... They’re very passionate about learning and they want this to continue.”

The Free Press attempted unsuccessfully to contact student members of the CAP.

Davenport reportedly mentioned one idea he had that might help avoid the financial aid glitch next fall. Appointing an ombudsman to work with CAP students — someone who is educated and experienced in how financial aid systems work — could help students navigate an area of the higher education landscape that can be, for anyone, a confusing one.

Also at the meeting was Spike Moss, a well-known activist from Minneapolis who typically champions the civil rights of ethnic minorities.

While it is unclear who invited him, Moss advised the students to work with the administration. He also lauded the work of Davenport’s administration.