The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 21, 2013

State official solicits student comments on finances

(Continued)

MANKATO —

Pogemiller noted the common opinion that college students’ debt problems stem partly from living large.

“Are you living high off the hog?” he asked.

David Schieler, a communications studies major at MSU, described the not-so-lavish  condition of the apartment he shares with other students before mentioning the $280 textbook he was required to purchase for a biology class.

“That’s a lavish textbook,” Schieler joked. “I guess I could have put that into a flat-screen TV, not gone to class.”

Evan Oman, a senior math major at Bethany Lutheran College, applauded Dayton’s proposal to put $80 million into the state grant program, which he was eligible for during his first two years in college.

Dayton’s plan increases grants by an average of $300 for the 100,000 students in Minnesota who receive them. It would also expand the program by more than 5,000 additional students, many of them from families with incomes above $60,000 a year.

Oman said he’s been fortunate to get help from his family with college costs, but he has friends whose parents have higher incomes and provide no assistance to their kids by choice or because of financial struggles of their own.

“What your parents earn really doesn’t say how much they’re going to help out,” Oman said. “... Obviously not an easy thing to fix, but it is something that could be improved.”

Muresuk Mena, a first-generation college student at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, said the state grant program has been crucial to him — reducing both the financial and emotional stress of college.

“It’s very important to me. It’s been a big help,” Mena said of the state aid, adding that financial worries afflict many students. “... A lot of times, that’s a big burden.”

The fate of Dayton’s proposed boost in state grants — along with $80 million increases for both the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system — will be determined through budget negotiations in the current legislative session.

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