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Rochester students rally for tuition cap (video)

Rochester students rally for tuition cap (video)
Rochester Community and Technical College students, from left, Khang Quach, Andrea White and Kylie Osterhus join hundreds of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system students for a rally against tuition increases on the steps of the Capitol Wednesday. Many wore red hats bearing the word 'Tuition' because they are calling for a tuition cap.

ST. PAUL — Clutching a red sign with the words "Student tuition is overpriced," Rochester Community and Technical College student Khang Quach on Wednesday joined hundreds of college students rallying in front of the Capitol to rally for a cap on tuition increases.

During the past decade, tuition has increased by more than 100 percent at the state’s two-year public colleges — a statistic that Quach said is "ridiculous." The Rochester student works full-time at Saint Marys Hospital but that still doesn't cover his rising education costs.

"I had to move back in with my family this semester because I couldn’t afford it anymore because tuition is too high," he said.

About 30 RCTC students turned out for the rally. Students sported bright red knit hats with "tuition" on the front to show their support for a tuition cap. Speakers fired up the crowd asking, "How high is tuition?" prompting students to shout back "too high."

The lobbying push by Minnesota State College and University students comes the day after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton released his budget proposal, which includes a 6 percent cut to state colleges and universities. With the state facing a projected $6.2 billion budget deficit, higher education likely will be on the table once again for cuts. Students said they understand the state’s budget woes, but believe they have been paying the price for Minnesota’s budget fiscal problems for too long.


"We can no longer ask students to backfill cuts to higher education and compromise their futures for the sake of short-term budget solutions," said Travis Johnson, president of the Minnesota State College Student Association.

The rally coincided with a committee hearing on a bill that would curb tuition increases. Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, is backing the measure, which would freeze tuition at state colleges and universities for two years. Future increases would be capped at the rate of inflation.

But at a Senate Higher Education Committee hearing, no one spoke in support of the tuition freeze, although many expressed concern about tuition

"I don’t know what the answer is here because I don’t like freezing tuition but I also don’t like not funding our colleges, and somewhere along the way we’ve got to get a handle on this and start thinking about the future because we are going to need an educated workforce," said Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm.

Rochester GOP Sen. Carla Nelson met with some of the local students lobbying for a tuition cap. Before taking a firm position on the tuition cap issue, she said she wants to get information about costs that the colleges and universities control. She said that even private colleges have seen soaring tuition rates indicating the increases are not just tied to state funding.

She added, "We should all be concerned about the rise in tuition."

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