Monday, November 14, 2011

Minnesota Students Deliver 4,000 Signature Petition Opposing Pell Grant Cuts

Students speak to the harmful effects of narrowed Pell Grant eligibility

Students from the Minnesota State College Student Association (MSCSA) and the Minnesota State University Student Association (MSUSA) collected more than 4,000 signatures in opposition to the U.S. House of Representatives’ proposal to cut the Pell Grant Program by $4.2 billion.  MSUSA and MSCSA held a press conference on Monday, November 14th where MSUSA State Chair Amanda Bardonner and MSCSA President Geoff Dittberner called on the Minnesota Congressional delegation to preserve eligibility and funding for the Pell Grant program.
Amanda Bardonner stated, “The proposed changes will eliminate 13,200 Minnesota students who currently receive the Pell Grant and will cost our students $76 million in grants. That’s a tradeoff our state and our economy simply cannot afford.”

A recent study showed that by 2018, Minnesota's economy will need 70% of the workforce to hold a post-secondary degree. Currently, less than 45% of the Minnesota's workforce has a post-secondary degree. The Pell Grant serves the exact student population that our colleges and universities need to attract to keep our economy competitive.

Geoff Dittberner outlined his concerns by stating, "In a very real way, the Pell grant is disaster relief for this economic downturn. Eliminating thousands of Minnesotans from the Pell grant program is yet another disastrous financial hardship for students already struggling with increased higher education costs."

Bardonner and Dittberner were also joined by fellow students Sarah Shepherd from Bemidji State University and Michael Flannery from Hennepin Technical College.  Shepherd shared her story of a single mother fighting cancer suffered while serving in the Gulf War. The Pell Grant has offered her the ability to attend school full-time and become a student leader on her campus. Flannery spoke of the debt he incurred to pay tuition his first year of college, and how the Pell grant was instrumental in motivating him to complete his two-year degree and ultimately pursue a bachelor's degree.

Thirty years ago, the maximum Pell Grant award was equivalent nationally to about three-fourths of the cost of attending a four-year public college. Today, it covers only about one-third of the average national cost. Nearly 140,000 hard-working Minnesota college students rely on Pell Grants to afford higher education and desperately-needed job training.  Bardonner concluded by saying, “Students ask Congress, please don’t balance the budget on the backs of hard-working students. Please save the Pell Grant.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An Epic Preview to the November Delegates Conference

It's that time of year again folks. That's right, you guessed it, Fall Delegates Conference is here! The staff and officers have been busy preparing for an epic conference full of trainings and discussions of best practices across campuses.  The conference begins early Saturday morning at St. Paul College in St. Paul, MN.  First thing in the morning conference attendees will breakout into different sessions.  The MSUSA Board of Directors will participate in brainstorming sessions, discussing strategic goals for the association while the campus committee members meet to discuss projects, brainstorm ideas and discuss organizing strategies.  Other students will break-out into two different sessions; first time conference attendees will attend an MSUSA 101 session to learn about the association and the advocacy work we do to prepare them for Delegates Assembly. 

In the afternoon, campus lobby core members will participate in an in-depth training with Jonathan Bohn Director of Government Relations and Matt Smriga Director of Campus Organizing.  It is essential that our campus lobby cores are prepared when the State Legislative session begins in January and they most certainly will be after this training!

Following the afternoon breakout sessions, Vice Chair Nikki Sabby will chair the Fall Delegates Assembly.  Students will discuss and vote to set the state and federal legislative agendas and make any changes to the MnSCU work plan for the year. 

The Board of Directors will meet Sunday morning at the Kelly Inn in St. Paul, MN to tackle a full agenda.  MnSCU Trustee Brett Anderson and MPR Higher Education reporter Alex Friedrich will make a guest appearance after which the board vote on other agenda items. To view the full board agenda and other conference documents please visit the MSUSA Website.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Alumni Update: November 2011

Alumni Board met Thursday November 4th, 2011
The Alumni Association Board met this past Thursday to discuss a variety of topics including: attendance at the 24th Annual Penny Reception, the MSCSA Leadership Scholarship Dinner, and a possible alumni social in December. Overall, it was a productive meeting.

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.

Minnesota State College Student Association (MSCSA) Leadership Scholarship Dinner
The fifth annual Leadership Scholarship Dinner and Silent Auction will be held at the Hilton MSP Airport/MOA in Bloomington on Friday, January 6, 2012. Guests will enjoy dinner prepared by award winning Chef Eric Baker following our Silent Auction, featuring items from around the state. Share your support with new friends during our social hour and place your bid on weekend gettaways, sports tickets, and one-of-a-kind items. All proceeds will go directly towards continuing and expanding our Leadership Scholarship Program. Any alumni interested in attending should contact Alumni Association Board chair, Josh Martin, at 

Fall Delegates, Novmeber 12th-13th, 2011
Students will be meeting in Saint Paul to conduct business including: setting MSUSA's legislative agenda for the year, preparing for another busy year of lobbying, and learning how they can better promote MSUSA on their campus. In addition, Alumni Association Board Chair, Josh Martin will be giving Parliamentary Procedure training.  Click here for more information on the weekend.

Save Pell
The Minnesota State University Student Association is currently working to preserve the Pell Program from further cuts. We have collected over 2,300 signatures and will be delivering the peitition to the Chairman of the House Education, HHS and Labor Committee, John Kline. For more information on how you can get involved in this effort to save the pell program visit

Steven Rosenstone Installed as Fourth Chancellor of MnSCU
Steven Rosenstone was officially installed as the the fourth Chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities on Wednesday October 19, 2011. During the installation Rosenstone state  "to you, our students, I have heard you on tuition and I get it." We look forward to working with the Chancellor in the future.

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.

Students Ask For a Strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to Protect Them from Unfair Financial Practices
MSUSA state chair, Amanda Bardonner participated in a series of events on Wednesday, October 26th with newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to promote policies that protect students from unfair financial practices. She indicated that “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."

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Campus Visit: St. Cloud, feat. Gov. Dayton, Secret Chambers, and Emma Watson!

J-Money Street (you may know him as Jered Weber) and I recently made our way to the glorious campus of St. Cloud State University. Everything about our trip was delightful. We were greeted warmly by Dale Rystad, the Legislative/MnSCU Specialist, almost immediately upon our arrival. Dale sprang fourth from the bushes, or some other hiding spot of that nature, to greet us with a warm welcome. After calming from the initial startle, we had quite a nice conversation.

We strolled across the leaf-strewn campus to meet up with Jarrod Wiggins, the ebullient Campus Coordinator, and Juliet Ogembo, the very capable and talented Diversity Specialist. Our group of 5 watched the ground-breaking ceremony for new science building on campus. I’m not sure what type of science experiments will be conducted in this new facility, but I assume it has something to do with time travel or perhaps reanimating the cryogenically frozen corpse of Walt Disney.

Governor Dayton was in attendance and made a very Dayton-like speech (take that as you will), but his remarks were completely overshadowed by the eloquence of the St. Cloud Student Body President and MSUSA Board Member, Sam Ivey. Sam brought the audience to tears with her alternately touching and witty oration.

After the proceedings, our group of 5 made our way to the Atwood Student Union. Jarrod lead us down a hidden passageway lit with torches en route to a top secret meeting chamber. I was surprised to hear that very few St. Cloud students know about the underground passageways beneath Atwood.

Shortly after we settled ourselves around a giant table in the bowels of the student union, a sharp knock was heard at the door. I was a little unsettled (due most likely to the medieval torture devices located throughout the secret chamber), but my unease immediately evaporated when I saw the smiling face of Public Relations Specialist Mo Yaqub bound into the room. Mo pushed aside the iron maiden and took his place at the round table.

The ensuing meeting was most productive. We discussed all sorts of matters related to the Campus Committee and, after our meeting, I found myself brimming with confidence as I envisioned all of the glorious things this group is sure to achieve. I am pleased to report that all is well in the Cloud!

As we clambered out of the passageway and back into the daylight, one final surprise awaited us before our departure. Ms. Emma Watson herself (or at least a two-dimensional representation of her) was standing there with a look of steely determination. It was as if she sensed her biggest fan was afoot! For those who don’t know, Jered (J$) has been pursuing Ms. Watson for some time. It was priceless to see his eyes light up as they finally laid rest upon the object of his affection. I'm pleased to report that Emma was gracious enough to consent to a photo with her suitor (please visit Jered’s Facebook page for the evidence). What a magical place this St. Cloud is!

Onward and upward to the next campus!