College students unite for tuition battle
MINNEAPOLIS -- Six University of Minnesota students, upset about two years of double-digit tuition increases, have created a nonprofit group to battle the problem.
The annual tuition and fees will be $3,040 for full-time students at two-year colleges in the state next year. At four-year state universities, tuition and fees will average $3,719.
Increases from 10 percent to nearly 17 percent were approved this year by the University of Minnesota Board of Regents and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees to make up for cuts in funding from the Legislature.
The group Votes for Students was incorporated last spring and will work to get students to register to vote and go to the polls in November.
"No one really cares about us. ... For the first time, college students could become a group that is listened to," said student Zachery Coelius, the group's executive director.
The effort is no fly-by-night flirtation with political activism. The group already has received a commitment for a donation of $60,000 in software and is in negotiations with a donor for $20,000 to cover office costs this fall.
Two University of Minnesota professors have agreed to advise VFS and evaluate the effectiveness of the group's get-out-the-vote effort.
"The goal is to provide college students with the tools to compete with every other age group out there," said Coelius. "College students are new voters, and they're inexperienced and don't know where to vote and how to vote. ... With e-mail, we can give them that information."
Coelius, 22, will be a university senior this fall, majoring in political science and history. Last week, he was in the Washington, D.C., area, visiting his parents and soliciting donations for VFS.
Coelius said he was disappointed at the muted public response earlier this year when university officials announced that tuition and fees on the Twin Cities campus would increase 16 percent after a 13.6 percent increase last year.
"The politicians were talking about drug benefits for elderly people, ... but no one was talking about college students and tuition increases," he said.