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Victory: Minnesota students get a say over mandatory fees under new state law

Donald Trump’s unified federal government hasn’t been particularly productive in its first few months, which makes Republicans’ recent accomplishment in liberal Minnesota all the more impressive.

Handed control of the Legislature in November’s election – possibly out of frustration with spiraling costs from Obamacare, which was championed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton – the state GOP has extracted a modest win for students.

Any proposed increased of more than 2 percent in mandatory student fees could trigger a student body vote, under compromise language in the budget that Dayton signed Tuesday, Minnesota Daily reports.

Republican Rep. Drew Christensen, himself a substitute teacher when he’s not at the Capitol and just 24 years old, put the spotlight on the obscene fees students are forced to pay in March.

He had introduced two bills – the one that ended up in the final budget as well as one that would make the fees totally optional.

According to the Daily, University of Minnesota students each paid $864.36 for the past two semesters in mandatory student fees. They have jumped more than 40 percent in the past decade, and now suddenly the university – which strongly opposed both bills – is playing up its humility:

“Attempting to do away with these fees was pretty extreme,” [Higher Education Committee Chair Bud] Nornes said. “But it did prove a point. … This has happened over time, where suddenly students are paying close to a thousand dollars for fees.”

Matt Kramer, University vice president for government relations, said the legislation is a reminder that the student service fee process needs more attention. He said the school should ensure the fees are used efficiently, but stressed they are an important part of funding infrastructure.

“We have an obligation to look at it and say how we are going to respond to it,” he said. “I wouldn’t term it as good, I wouldn’t term it as bad.”

Thanks to Christensen, who only graduated from the university in 2015, now the pigs who feed at the trough will have to convince their constituents to back big increases in fees, rather than counting on student apathy to free them from any fiscal restraint.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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