BY BECKI DEGEEST
Last year, MSUM students successfully lobbied and met with legislators at the Minnesota Capitol building as part of the student-led organization Minnesota State University Student Association (MSUSA). This year they hope to do the same and plan for a great outlook ahead.
“Last year, MSUSA was able to effectively fix the part-time state grant, which was very odd with the amount of credits to the amount of funding you received,” said Yannis Tomko, MSUSA Legislative/MnSCU specialist. “There were a few odd numbers where if you took nine credits you would get something like $1,000, whereas if you took 10 credits you would get only $800 as an example. We managed to fix that formula, so the amount of money to students is now proportionate to how many credits you have taken. We also have worked with MnSCU to help get open source textbooks.”
Open source are textbooks made available online to be used by students, teachers and members of the public for free. Textbooks can be distributed in print, e-book or audio formats.
“It’s kind of like a big textbook Wikipedia,” Yomko said about open source textbooks. “Where a professor can either create or edit a textbook, and when they do that, it goes to the open source textbook program where other professors at other universities can use it, and students can access the books for free and so we were able to lobby affectively that the legislators tasked to MnSCU to do some research on open source textbooks.”
This year, as well as last year, the organization continues to push for lower costs of tuition and textbooks and continues to work with MnSCU on open source textbooks. They are also hoping to make students more aware of what the legislature is up to and have high hopes for the future.
“This year we’ve been trying to get the word out about what MSUSA does, we have tables set up, class wraps, where we go and talk to a class about what we do, and we also are trying to get students to sign up for legislative updates, which, if there is a topic brought up that concerns students, we just want to make sure they are aware and are knowledgeable about what is going on,” Yomko said.
Beginning with a slow start, the group is trying to get people interested and involved in the Lobby Corp and MSUSA.
Because the group receives 43 cents per credit from each student who attends MSUM as part of their tuition/activity fees, they stress the importance of being aware of the issues brought up by Minnesota legislature.
“This year is a bit of an off year. Last year there was a lot of energy and momentum to get students to go vote, and also we had lots of activities in the spring, which will be happening again this spring, because that is when legislators meet.”
Because of MSUSA’s “off year,” Yomko, along with others in the organization, are pushing harder to make it a “bonding year” and are hoping students will become involved with lobby corp. Students who are interested in Lobby Corp or MSUSA have the opportunity to lobby at the capitol.
MSUSA lobby corp members were able to apply in the fall until November and will meet and train in January. They then will go down to the capitol and lobby to the legislators over issues and concerns brought up by students.
“I think a lot of politicians make decisions knowing that college students don’t care or aren’t paying attention,” Yomko said. “I recall a Moorhead councilman said once, ‘Students don’t matter; students don’t vote,’ and I want to change that.”
Board members and certain delegates just returned from the Fall Delegates Conference in Saint Paul. While there, they worked on new platform issues for MSUSA.