Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Students Ask For a Strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to Protect Them from Unfair Financial Practices

Special Advisor to the U.S. Treasury Secretary on the CFPB, Raj Date with MSUSA state chair, Amanda Bardonner and MSCSA president, Geoff Dittberner.

The Minnesota State College Student Association and Minnesota State University Student Association joined together to call for clear rules and strong enforcement in private student lending. Private student loans cost more than federal loan options, often times charging higher rates and including less favorable terms. While banks may market these products at interest rates lower than those of federal student loans, they charge higher rates to over 75% of borrowers— often those with the most financial need. 

Geoff Dittberner, President of the Minnesota State College Student Association explains, “Some students take out private loans because they are not aware of their federal loan options, or believe they won’t qualify.  In fact, the majority of private loan borrowers in 2008 borrowed less than they could have qualified for in more affordable federal loans.”

Amanda Bardonner, State Chair of the Minnesota State University Student Association went on to say, “Minnesota students and families need to trust financial institutions and feel secure in their borrowing choices.  Today 's students will not be tomorrow's homeowners, investors or entrepreneurs if this country continues to allow companies to take advantage of them as they become consumers.”

We believe the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau can help curb deceptive and aggressive marketing practices that drive students to take on unmanageable private loans. The bureau can scrutinize current bank practices and help ensure students know how to access and exhaust more affordable federal loan options first.  Regulations can also promote financial literacy among students and families as they make important college finance decisions

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Resignation Announcement - Kari Winter

I am writing to announce my resignation as the Director of Development and Alumni Outreach of the Minnesota State University Student Association. Hamline University recently offered me a position as the Program Manager of the Health Law Institute, which I’ve decided to accept. My resignation will be effective Wednesday, October 26, 2011.

Working at MSUSA over the past four years has been a great opportunity, which I’m very thankful for. I’ve truly learned a lot and made so many friends. I definitely plan to stay involved through the Alumni Association, Jared P. Stene Student Leadership Scholarship and the Penny Program. I will miss MSUSA and look back happily on my years here as a student and staff member.



Monday, October 24, 2011

One week left! Penny applications due Nov. 1st!

Penny Program applications are due Tuesday, November 1st. MnSCU students with at least a 2.5 GPA are eligible to apply. Only three applications have been submitted so far!


As part of the Penny Program's 25th Anniversary celebration we have secured an internship position in Governor Dayton's office in Saint Paul during the 2012 legislative session. If you are interested in this opportunity, please specify this in your $2,500 State Fellowship application.

One student will receive $5,000 to do a public service internship in Washington D.C.
One student will receive $2,500 to do a public service internship in Minnesota.
One student will receive $1,500 for their commitment to community service.

The internship does not have to be secured at the time of application. Students have up to one year to begin their internship.

Click here to download the application.

Watch this video to learn more about the program.

Find us on Facebook at

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Campus Visit: Mustang Power!

So there we were, driving through the bread basket of Minnesota. The horizon stretched out as a thin, flat line in all directions. Our black Dodge Charger sailed through the cool autumn air and left a trail of quaking corn crops in our wake. You guessed it, Jered and I were on our way to Marshall, Minnesota. Our mission: to visit the good people of Southwest Minnesota State University.

As we stepped out of our sweet rented ride a beautiful Fall day smacked us in the face. Bright sun illuminated the Southwest campus and gave an angelic glow to busy students hurrying to class. Jered was in particularly high spirits and was humming a few of the jams still buzzing in head from the Pandora station we had playing in the Charger.

After Jered reluctantly stopped rocking out, we had the pleasure of meeting with the entire Southwest MSUSA team. Some veterans have thankfully decided to re-enlist this year. Daniel aka “Joe” aka “Captain Smooth” Longshore has returned as Campus Coordinator and is continuing to set the bar very high. Elise Kazmerzak also decided to reprise her role as PR Specialist this year, and therefore continues to masterfully promote MSUSA on campus. And Kyle Berndt, while no longer on the committee, continues to serve MSUSA as the Board member from Southwest, providing a strong voice for his fellow Mustangs.

If all of this veteran leadership wasn’t enough, however, two talented appointees have been added to the mix. It was a pleasure speaking with Joe Guzman, the new Diversity Specialist, and Josh Anderson, the new Leg/MnSCU Specialist. Both gentleman are super-qualified and have a wealth of experience in their respective areas. I haven’t met two Campus Committee members more ready to “hit the ground running” than these two.

The combination of veteran leadership and new talent ensures that the MSUSA name is destined for certain glory in Marshall.

Onward and upward to the next campus!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Campus Visits: Bemidji-Moorhead Swing

I’m pleased to announce that Jered and I recently returned from a successful trip to northern Minnesota. We managed to pull off two successful campus visits in less than 24 hours. The nonstop campus tour took its toll on Jered though, as he was rambling incoherently the entire trip home. It is a small price to pay for two wildly-successful visits, however. Besides, I just slowly turned up the radio in imperceptibly small increments and, slowly but surely, drowned out his mutterings.

Our first stop was Bemidji State University. Our second all-female Campus Committee is a powerhouse. Arlene, Sarah, Kari and Prativa are all superstars. It was a pleasure to sit down and chat with the ladies about their plan for the year. They already have several exciting projects in the works, all designed to promote MSUSA, and after hearing about their ideas I’m couldn't be more excited about all they’re going to accomplish this year. After our informal conversation Jered walked Kari through some of the high points of planning media events, then we hit the campus to practice some clipboarding. It was a great day, as it always is in Bemidji. There was also a very welcome Joe Vito Moubry sighting! As if spending a beautiful Fall day in Bemidji wasn’t enough, the cherry on top was running into a funny, warm-hearted guy like Joe (Joe took the opportunity to make fun of Jered’s orange tie, to the delight of all present).

Early the next morning we awoke in Moorhead. After hitting snooze and going back to sleep, we finally awoke for good around 8:30am. Shortly thereafter Jered and I devoured a delicious continental breakfast at the Moorhead AmericInn. Then, fortified with freshly-pressed waffles, we meandered on over to the Moorhead campus.
Meeting with the Moorhead Campus Committee is a cold, hard blast of enthusiasm. I’ve never seen a group of people more excited to receive MSUSA promotional items than these four. Thom Beneke, the PR Speciliast, even has a strict rationing policy in place for the coveted Penny Program “squishy capitols.” He simply refuses to hand them out unless someone engages in pro-MSUSA activity on campus. His dedication to the cause is admirable.
During our meeting I swelled with pride as I listened to the level of thought Ashley, Robby (notice it’s spelled with a “y”… You don’t even want to know what happens if you spell it with an “ie”), Thom, and Priyanka invest in their individual work plans. It is obvious they all care deeply about doing the very best job they can. I’m so impressed with this group and feel very confident that the MSUSA brand is in good hands in dragon country.

Onward and upward to the next campus!

Monday, October 10, 2011

No More Cuts to Pell - Sign the petition!


The U.S. House proposed changes to the Pell Grant program’s eligibility requirements unfairly balances the budget on the back of low-income students. The same students who count on the Pell Grant to afford college should neither lose a dollar of aid nor be cut from the program. Forcing these students to decide between continuing trying to earn a higher education or accumulating massive debts is short-sighted and will harm our economy for years to come. The proposed changes will drop 9,500 students from the Pell Grant in Minnesota and will cost our students $70 million in grants.

That’s a tradeoff our state and our economy simply cannot afford.

A recent study from Georgetown University showed that by 2018 Minnesota’s economy will need 70% of the workforce to hold a post-secondary degree. Currently our state has fewer than 45% of the workforce with a higher education degree. The population that the Pell Grant serves is exactly the type of new students that our colleges and universities need to attract.

Thirty years ago, the maximum Pell Grant award was equivalent to about three-fourths of the cost of attending a four-year public college. Today, it covers only about one-third — and that’s after recent increases made to the program. Nearly 140,000 hard-working Minnesota college students rely on Pell Grants to afford higher education and job training needed.

Don’t balance the budget on the backs of low-income Americans. Please save the Pell Grant.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

It's hot dish, not casserole. JPS Scholarship Cookbook!

The Jared P. Stene Student Leadership Scholarship supporters are publishing a cookbook titled Recipes and Remembrances in memory of Jared. (If you knew Jared, you know how much he enjoyed his food!) All profits from the sale of the cookbooks will go to the JPS Scholarship Fund and cookbooks are only $13!

Please provide any of the following to be included in the cookbook, submitted no later than October 15, 2011.

1. Remembrances: An anecdote or story about Jared or a "Jaredism".

2. Recipes: One to five of your favorite recipes in any of the following categories: Hot Dishes, Main Entrees, Appetizers, Beverages, Soups, Salads, Breads, Vegetables or Desserts. 

3. Advertisement: $50 to place an ad for your business. 


The cookbook will be delivered in time for the holidays and makes a great gift! If you would like to order one or more cookbooks now, please send your check made payable to the JPS Scholarship. Each cookbook is $13.00.

Submissions & Orders

Remembrances and recipes can be submitted via email to Carla Butz at

Or, submit remembrances, recipes, advertisements, cookbook orders and payments by mail to:

MSUSA - JPS Scholarship

23 Empire Drive, Suite 100

Saint Paul, MN 55103

Order your cookbook online with your credit card by clicking here.

Visit our website for more information.

Thanks so much for participating in our fundraising efforts!

Char, Becky, Vicky, Sandy, Kasey and Carla

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fighting for Pell Grant Funding and Student Programs

This past week Director of Government Relations Jonathan Bohn, MSU-Mankato Student Association President Matt Lexcen, Winona State University Student Association President Jack Linehan and I traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby for Pell Grant funding on behalf of the over 75,000 students at the seven MnSCU universities. 

With a similar message to that of our July trip, we met with a representative from each Minnesota Senators and Congresspersons office to express the importance of Pell Grants and funding for higher education programs.  We learned hours before flying off to Washington D.C. that congress had passed a continuing resolution Monday night  to extend the continuing resolution, that was set to end September 30th, for another six weeks.  The Pell Grant Maximum remained whole in the continuing resolution but the fight is not over. 

In meetings with the staff from Representatives McCollum, Cravaack, Peterson, Kline, Walz, Ellison, Paulsen and Senators Franken and Klobuchar it was clear that Pell Grants remain to be apart of the budget conversations on Capitol Hill.  Matt Lexcen said he was "astounded with the blanket of overwhelming support for keeping the current funding levels of $5550/year and how the higher education legislative aids seemed to understand the importance of funding accessibility options for collegians--that this is an investment, not a cost, burden or expense".  As the Joint Super Committee works to find budget reductions of at least $1.5 trillion over the next ten years there is no doubt that funding for education will be discussed.  Unfortunately, no one knows what to expect or what the committee will present in November for a vote.  For now, we continue to advocate and share our message!

While in D.C. we also met with two federal associations who are strong advocates for the Pell Grant and higher education as a whole.  United States Student Association has a central office in Washington D.C. and represents students on the federal level.  The President, Vice President and Legislative Director outlined the work they have done on Pell Grant and shared some of their Minnesota specific data.  Through this connection we were able to obtain information on the number of students who receive Pell per voting district in Minnesota, a tool that was certainly useful in our lobby strategy. 

The other association, Education Trust is responsible for the Save Pell campaign you may have seen all over social media.  Education Trust is an advocacy organization with a goal to close the achievement and opportunity gaps in education.  They have worked with other federal advocacy groups dedicated to similar higher education platforms.  It was through this meeting that we first learned of the proposed changes to the Pell Grant eligibility outlined in the House Appropriations Subcommittee budget recommendations.  Though the maximum is proposed to remain the same the proposed changes to eligibility would drastically decrease the number of students who qualify in Minnesota.  Both the Director of Legislative Affairs and the Director of Communications at the Education Trust were extremely open about how the Save Pell campaign originated and provided our association tips on how they could have improved it.  MSUSA will be launching a similar campaign in Minnesota to show Congressman Kline, the chair of the Education and Workforce Committee, that the Pell Grant, at the full funding level and the same eligibility requirements benefit the people of Minnesota.  More information on the Pell Grant can be found in the MSUSA Pell Grant Action blog or by through our social media sites.

Overall this was a successful lobby trip, one that developed relationships for our association and raised the awareness of the importance of the Pell Grant to the students at our Universities.  Jack Linehan offered these words in reflection of the trip, "I enjoyed the opportunity to represent MSUSA on a Federal level and am confident that the connections we made will positively impact our students, and hopefully save the Pell grant from future cuts". 

Our fight is not over.  There is a lot of work to be done to ensure federal programs remain available for Minnesota students and we need YOU to help us in that fight.  Next week our MSUSA Campus Committees, Board Members and community Alumni will be asked to help in the fight by signing a petition to Congressman Kline and the rest of the Minnesota Delegation telling them that cuts to the maximum Pell Grant and changes in eligibility requirements are unacceptable and harm the accessibility of higher education in Minnesota.  We will also be collecting stories of how the Pell Grant has helped you work towards or achieve your degree.  Together we can make a difference and ensure the vitality of this federal program, but it will not be easy!

As always, if you have any questions please email myself at or Director of Government Relations Jonathan Bohn at

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Alumni Update: September 2011

Happy Hour, October 6th
Join us at O'Gara's Bar and Grill in Saint Paul on Thursday, October 6th, 4:30pm - 7:00pm for a happy hour social event! This will be a great chance to network with other alumni and to learn more about the Alumni Association. Appetizers will be provided.

Alumni Spotlight: Michael Kurowski
Click here to read our most recent alumni spotlight about Michael Kurowski. He's a Winona State University graduate, 1998 Vice Chair and currently works in Residence Life at Southwest Minnesota State University.

Guest Blog Post: Michael Meehlhause
Alumni Association Board member and former Bemidji State University student body president, Michael Meehlhause, reflects on his time in MSUSA and how it has taught him how important it is to continue to stay involved. Click here to read his guest blog post.

Tony Rust Appointed to Alumni Board
Congratulations to Tony Rust for his appointment to the At-Large seat on the Alumni Association Board. He was the State Chair in 1998 and graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University. He currently works for Terex Financial Service as their Director of Capital Markets and Marketing in Connecticut. Tony's term will run until the Annual Meeting in Spring 2012.

Eight Mentors Needed
Eight students have registered for the Spring 2011 Mentorship Program and are looking for alumni just like you to work with! Please register online today to mentor a student. Each mentorship pair can be customized to communication styles and topics. This is a great way to get to know future leaders and give back to MSUSA.

Four Alumni Attend MnSCU Foundation Golf Scramble
A foursome from the MSUSA Alumni Association was present at the MnSCU Foundation Golf Scramble held on September 23rd, 2011 at the Oak Glen Golf Course in Stillwater, MN. Attendees included: Justin McMartin (SMSU), Travis Reese (WSU), Rick Howden (WSU), Meagan Hertzog (MSU,M).

24th Annual Penny Reception, November 11th, 2011
The Alumni Association will be a Penny Pod Sponsor at the November 11th, 2011 Penny Reception. You are invited to join us at this fun event to support MnSCU students who have shown a commitment to community service and participate in public service internships. It will be held from 6-9pm at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park and will feature live music, hors d'oeuvres, a silent auction, fundraising games and a cash bar. You can register and/or pay online by clicking here.

It's hot dish, not casserole. JPS Scholarship Cookbook!
We will be publishing a cookbook to support the Jared P. Stene Student Leadership Scholarship. Recipes, business ads and remembrances of Jared can be submitted by October 15, 2011. Books will be delivered before the holidays and are only $13! Order yours online and click here for more information.

Federal Lobby Trip
Student leaders were in Washington D.C. last week meeting with members of Minnesota's congressional delegation to discuss the importance of the Pell Grant Program. As Congress negotiates the budget, college students around the country are concerned their future is in jeopardy as much uncertainty surrounds the program. The Pell Grant makes it possible for more than 145,000 Minnesota college students to enroll in college. Students that traveled to Washington D.C. included Amanda Bardonner, State Chair, Matthew Lexcen, Minnesota State University, Mankato student body president, and Jack Linehan, Winona State University student body president.

Monday, October 3, 2011


The House FY 12 Labor HHS bill came out late last week and included deep cuts to Pell. The bill includes eligibility changes that would take more than $40 billion over 10 years. The full list of eligibility changes are below.

In Minnesota it means 9,500 students would become ineligible to receive a Pell Grant and more than $60 million in money would be lost. It also means a drastic reduction in Pell for many students that currently receive pell.

We'll continue updating you all as this FY 12 process unfolds. In the meantime, a blog, Facebook post, Tweet, or member action alert would all be a good way to take action right now and make public how harmful these cuts would be. Please let me know if there is more information that I can provide to you to assist with that; if there is anything on this list that you'd like to know more about I can send along more details.

Please contact John Kline's office here and tell them that these reductions to the Pell Grant will hurt Minnesota students.

ELIGIBILITY CHANGES (in descending order of the dollar savings from the change)

  • Rolls back income protection allowance (IPA) levels to pre-CCRAA levels
  • Expands the definition of income to include items eliminated by the CCRAA
  • Retroactively limits Pell eligibility to the equivalent of 12 semesters (6 years)
  • Lowers eligibility for automatic zero-EFC to $15,000 (from current level of $31,000)
  • Eliminates eligibility for ability-to-benefit (ATB) students (students without a high school diploma or GED)
  • Eliminates Pell eligibility for less than half time students
  • Raises the minimum eligibility level from 5% to 10% of the maximum award

Rep. John Kline (Chairman of the House Education, Labor, and HHS Committee)

Congressman Kline's Minnesota Office
Phone: (952) 808-1213
Toll-Free: (888) 808-6644

Congressman Kline's Washington Office
Phone: (202) 225-2271

Guest Post: Michael Meehlhause, Alumni Association

As I look back on my past four years of college and prepare to move onto the next chapter in my life, I can’t help but think of the many organizations that I had the privilege of being a part of, which in turn helped change my life. Being involved with MSUSA throughout my college experiences has left an enormous impact on my life by helping me learn new skills, give me the opportunity to represent the nearly 80,000 students in the four-year system, and most importantly taught me what it means to be a leader.

It’s still hard to believe that four years after my first Spring Delegates conference, where as a nervous and confused freshman I watched the Board decide who the next State Chair would be, that I myself would not only come to understand the importance of the position and the organization, but that I too may be nominated to serve the prestigious position. It was an experience that helped me realize not just how much college students could do when they work together, but also what I could do if I dedicated myself to an ideal (especially if that ideal involves a trophy).

Four years of service to MSUSA, first as a Campus Representative/Coordinator then as a Board of Director, has helped shape my perspective on college students. Specifically, it has taught me how much power and voice we have when we can work together. MSUSA is a chance to represent something bigger than yourself, your college, and even your generation. The decisions MSUSA helps influence try to make the college experience better and more affordable for years to come.

I learned an important lesson from my parents when I was growing up: that if something has had a profound impact on your life, you should always try to find a way to give back to it no matter the circumstance. It is something that has affected my current career choice as Executive Director of the Minnesota Nordic Ski Association, a position of which I could not have seen myself applying for without having served with MSUSA and been nominated for State Chair. When I remember my time at MSUSA, I remember the dedicated students I met, the amazing and talented staff, and also the alumni who keep coming back for more.

When I heard about the Alumni Association, there wasn’t any debate in my head about joining. First and foremost, four years is too little time to spend with as dedicated and as passionate people who make up MSUSA. Second, I know that despite how young I still am I can help provide the next generation of MSUSA leaders knowledge of my experience, support, and most of all my passion. When I remember my time at MSUSA it is easy to get nostalgic, but it is also exciting to think how the organization, like higher education, is constantly evolving, and that most of all there are students and alumni who are always ready to lead the way.

To current students and former members, I implore you to do what I have done and get involved in MSUSA and its Alumni Association. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how long you’ve been in or out of college, your economic status, or anything. All that matters is you remember the passion of a capital rally, the insanity of a delegates assembly, the importance of convincing that lone representative to support the cause, or how the journey shaped who you are today. Get involved and make a difference. - Michael Meehlhause, Bemidji State University Representative on the MSUSA Alumni Association Board