State reps propose tuition cut at the price of Student Life


The introduction of a new bill in the Minnesota State House of Representatives has Student Life concerned that support for numerous programs at MCTC could be drastically cut.

State Representative Drew Christensen (R-56A) introduced three bills to the House floor with the purpose of cutting costs at Minnesota colleges and lowering tuition rates.

The first bill, House File 2313 would aim to lower tuition at Minnesota State schools by at least one percent for the 2017-2018 school year, and freeze tuition for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Building on the first, the other two bills, House File 2197 and 2198, go into detail about how lower tuition will be achieved.

HF 2197 focuses on Student Life and activity fees. Any funding that would be allocated to any group that receives support through Student life, such as the Muslim Student Association, MCTC Bike Collective or the Theatre Activity Program, would be required to gain approval through a majority vote from the student body.

If proposed fees were related to academic, administrative or health services they would not be subject to a vote.

The specifics on how students would be educated on the voting process, or the infrastructure to vote, was not made clear.

“If this goes through, it’s hard to even really know what the impact is going to be,” said Tara Martinez, director of Student Life. “It’s not really clear exactly who this would effect.”

Covering fees more broadly, HF 2198 would directly prohibit mandatory student activity fees that fund non-instructional programs. This would make some student fees optional, using the previous bill to bring funding to a vote by the student body.

Again, any proposed fees regarding academic, administrative or health services would be exempt from needing a vote of approval.

These proposals are for Minnesota State colleges and the University of Minnesota, though there are independent clauses in each bill for the U of M. Specifically, HF 2198 says that the Board of Regents of the U of M is requested to adopt a policy implementing this section. That means that they could opt out of activity fee prohibition.

“For the apathetic folks, they might read that and think, ‘that doesn’t apply to us,'” said Martinez. “MCTC is not part of the U of M system.”

Members of the MCTC Student Government decided to make their way to the Minnesota State House to petition against the bill, along with other members of the Minnesota State Colleges Student Association.

“The analogy that I used for the committee was that if you made it so that state taxes were optional, and people could just opt out of it, I’m pretty sure it would cause great destruction to your institution,” said Charles Karter, Student Government director of Health and Sustainability. “We’re a government institution, as well.”

At the moment the three bills have been laid over for possible inclusion on the Minnesota State Higher Education Omnibus Bill, which is several bills put together to pass at a single time. At the moment it is unclear whether or not it will be added. The omnibus bill will eventually go to the Ways and Means Committee, where it will go through an additional amendment process.