"It's great to be able to advocate on behalf of the college," SGA President Tyler Hauger '08 said. "Especially at a time when college costs are increasing, it is important to represent the 3,000 or so voices here at St. Olaf College and also those of the greater education community."
Each year the Minnesota Private College Council organizes the Day at the Capitol, where colleges from the area have the opportunity to meet with state representatives on behalf of education issues. The schools travel in groups of three or four and each actively ensure that our state representatives are aware of the issues surrounding higher education.
"It's a great opportunity to get out there and make your voice heard," said SGA president-elect Wade Hauser '09. "To actually get to participate in local government and really witness civic engagement and political action is a valuable experience for students interested in public affairs."
The council provides students with assistance and training in public affairs, and also arranges meetings and appointments with legislators. Upon arriving, participants first receive a briefing on policies and lobbying, and then get to meet with their respective legislators to discuss the issues. Students from Minnesota have the opportunity to meet with the district representatives from their hometown, while out-of-state students meet with representatives from Northfield.
St. Olaf students were joined by students from Carleton College, the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University to support the state grant. The grant program helps more than 70,000 students with their expenses for college, and almost 500 students here at St. Olaf receive a total of $1.67 million from Minnesota State Grant aid. Along with cutting $2 million for Early Childhood Learning Facilities, the bill introduced would cut $4 million from higher education funding for use in other education programs.
"We got to meet with District Senator Kevin Dahle and District Representative David Bly and discuss the details and consequences of the bill," Hauger stated. "It was inspiring to see House and Senate members at work representing us and our community at the state level."
"It is generally understood as a bad idea to cut state education funding at all," Hauger stated. "But both in-state and out-of-state students here at St. Olaf are especially worried about the rising costs of education and would like to see more money go directly to college students."
This year's "Day at the Capitol" was just one of many activities working to promote the spring theme of civic engagement. As a part of the greater 2006 - 2008 theme of global citizenship, it provided an opportunity for students not just to voice their opinions on the important issues of education funding, but also to gain valuable experience in the practice of local and state government.
"I feel that we accomplished a lot and alerted many people to the issues surrounding the funding of higher education in Minnesota," Hauger stated. "But what was most rewarding was to really see how these issues are introduced and dealt with at the Capitol, and witness the amount of passion that actually does exist in our state government."
For students interested in learning more about civic engagement, the SGA is looking ahead to next year's Day at the Capitol and also sponsors many activities on campus designed to promote student awareness and action.