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Association News

Students Applaud Legislative Leaders & Governor for Tuition Cut

For the first time in memory, students at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges will see tuition go down as a result of the higher education budget bill signed by the governor. The bill provides 100 million in funding to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system to freeze tuition in the first year of the biennium while providing a one percent reduction for college students in the second year, all the while maintaining the quality services and programs that are currently being offered. The higher education budget bill is a huge step toward making college affordable in Minnesota. 

“Students at Minnesota’s public community and technical colleges will see much needed relief from increasing tuition costs thanks to the leadership of state legislators and Governor Mark Dayton,” said Kayley Schoonmaker, President of the MSCSA. “These leaders, along with many other legislators, have done a great thing for students by providing lower tuition for all students and targeted aid to make college free for some.”

The Minnesota State College Student Association worked closely with two-year community and technical college students from all corners of the state to advocate for the tuition freeze and was thrilled when it was announced that the outcome was even more than students could have hoped for. MSCSA will continue to work to ensure accessible, quality, and affordable public higher education for all Minnesota students.

MSCSA sent a letter today thanking Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), Rep. Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls), and Governor Mark Dayton for prioritizing college affordability while maintaining quality at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges. Below is the content of the letter.


Dear Governor Dayton, Senator Bonoff, and Representative Nornes,

On behalf of the nearly 200,000 community and technical college students across the state, I want to share my sincerest gratitude to each of you for the commitment you showed this session to the issues facing our students.

We’re grateful that each of you recognized the unique challenges our students and campuses face and addressed these head-on in the budget. Our students currently pay the third highest tuition and fees in the nation. By providing significant new funding to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system and directing those dollars toward controlling tuition, you have set us on a path out of the top 5 nationally in tuition and protected the quality programs offered that are key to meeting our state’s workforce needs.

As a result of the higher education bill this session, students at our campuses will, for the first time in memory, see a reduction in tuition costs. In fact, building off the work of the previous legislature’s tuition freeze, our students will see three straight years of flat tuition and a one percent reduction in FY17. Due to the leadership of elected officials like you, many of our students will graduate paying the same or less than they did when they started their higher education journey.

We’re also grateful that the bill included funding and language aimed at implementing new transfer pathways for students in the MnSCU system. We have seen other states undertake similar reform and students there have benefited greatly from the transparency and certainty these new pathways bring. We’re excited to be a part of this crucial reform that will allow students to graduate faster, with less debt, and will allow them to enter the workforce quicker. This is something that will be of great benefit to our local, regional, and statewide economy.

We’re also excited about the pilot program to provide tuition assistance to students entering certain technical programs. We have long believed that our technical programs offer great benefits to students and our state’s economy and believe this program is a great step in recognizing their value.

Once again, thank you for your commitment to students and higher education in Minnesota. The efforts you put in this session are invaluable and appreciated by students on our campuses.


Kayley Schoonmaker
MSCSA President

A victorious close to the 2015 legislative session!

The regular state legislative session concluded last week with a flurry of action around the state budget and other important issues. As the legislature and governor negotiated an agreement around state spending, one budget bill that was wrapped up and signed into law was around higher education appropriations.

Minnesota's community and technical college students had a truly remarkable session. This is thanks to the work of the many students who came to the MSCSA's advocacy day, testified at hearings, met with legislators throughout the session, or participated in other events.

The final higher education budget bill included many provisions that directly and postively impact students on our campuses. Some of the highlights include:

  • $100 million in new base funding for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system. This was 70 percent of the funding requested by the Board of Trustees and is a significant investment of new funding.
  • Language freezing tuition in the first year of the biennium and reducing it by 1% in the second year at all MnSCU community and technical colleges. This is the first time in memory that students will actually see a decrease in tuition costs. This is a historic and amazing step in addressing the need for affordable and accessible two year colleges.
  • Language directing the creation of new transfer pathways that will bring clarity and simplicity to the credit transfer for students moving from a MnSCU college to a system university. The new pathways will require students to stay on path toward graduation, but will also guarantee them timely graduation if they do. Implementation of these new pathways was a top priority for MSCSA and we're thrilled at its inclusion into the bill. 
  • An increase of approximately $900 in the Living and Miscellaneous Expenses Allowance (LME) in the state grant program calculation. This was another top priority for MSCSA. 
  • A pilot program aimed at providing grants to Minnesota high school graduates who move into certain technical programs the semester following their graduation from secondary education. This program is a last dollar scholarship, meaning it will cover unmet need for a student after federal and state financial is figured in and includes requirements that students receiving a grant receive mandatory mentoring as they progress through their program. The program is funded at $5 million in FY17 and funding moves through into FY18. 
  • Language aimed at making different mechanisms for developmental education available to students.

Once again, we'd like to thank students across Minnesota who contributed to the success of this legislative session. If you have questions around the bill or the session in general, please contact the MSCSA office at 651-297-5877.

MSCSA announces Executive Director Mike Dean

MikeDean HeadshotDear MSCSA Students, Alumni, and Friends,

I am pleased to announce the new executive director of the Minnesota State College Student Association, Mike Dean.
The MSCSA staff, cabinet, and governing council are very excited about Mike's experience as a nonprofit leader and a higher education advocate. He comes to MSCSA with experience in management, fundraising, and public relations.

Mike is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in political science and international relations. Prior to joining the MSCSA, Mike rebuilt the Minnesota chapter of Common Cause as a leading advocate for open and accountable government. During his tenure, Mike played a huge role in limiting the influence of political spending after the US Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.

Mike also brings years of experience working with higher education institutions in advocating for state support of higher education. While working for the University of Minnesota, Mike helped craft the grassroots strategy that resulted in the passing of the University of Minnesota stadium bill.

I am excited about the passion and vision that Mike will bring to the MSCSA as we develop the next generation of leaders in Minnesota and advocate for all Minnesotan's right to accessible, quality, and affordable public higher education. Please join me in welcoming Mike Dean to our organization at The Great MSCSA Get-Together on Saturday, June 13. You can read more about Mike and his background below.

Kayley Schoonmaker
MSCSA President


Learn more about Mike!

Tell us about your work experience and educational background.

My career has been at the intersection of the non-profit and higher education sectors, as I have helped both build grassroots movements that bring about transformational change. I have years of experience working in higher education by helping institutions like MnSCU, the State University System of New York, and University of Minnesota build effective advocacy programs to garner adequate state support. While working for the University of Minnesota, I managed a grassroots advocacy strategy which sent over 15,000 letters to legislators in support of the UM Gopher Football Stadium. This advocacy was pivotal in convincing elected officials to support public funding for the stadium.

More recently, I was the executive director of Common Cause Minnesota, a citizens advocacy organization that empowers citizens to take a more active role in the democratic process. During my tenure, I helped rebuild the state organization into a powerful advocate for good government in Minnesota by bringing greater disclosure to political spending in Minnesota, ensuring oversight to the recount and redistricting process, and urging the governor to reopen the capitol when it was closed during the government shutdown.

What interested you in working for MSCSA?

Over 15 years ago, I was a student leader at the University of Wisconsin-Madison working to keep tuition affordable and empower students to have their voice heard. The life lessons and friendships that I made as a student leader had a huge impact on my life. I was able to gain so much from that experience as a result of the amazing staff that I worked with as a student leader. It was their mentorship and passion for helping others that helped shape who I am today.

I am excited about working for MSCSA because I want mentor the next generation of civic and business leaders in Minnesota. It is my way to give back to all those that have mentored me over the years.

What are some of the things that you have been working on and are excited to work on in the future?

I am excited about ensuring that every Minnesotan has a fundamental right a quality education that extends from preschool to community college. For Minnesota to compete in the global economy, we need to make sure that Community Colleges are free to all those that choose to attend. This will be critical in creating opportunities for every Minnesotan.

I want to help the MSCSA build a movement that guarantees every Minnesotan's right to attend a high quality community college for free.

What interests do you have outside of work?

I am an avid marathon runner that is always looking for a good place to run. This spring I completed my first Boston Marathon.

What is your favorite quote?

"If we don't fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don't really stand for them." - Sen. Paul Wellstone

How can people contact you?

You can email me at mdean@mscsa.org or call me anytime at 651-203-9454. You can also follow me on Twitter @MDean_MSCSA. I look forward to connecting with you all. If you are free on Saturday, June 13, come say hello and introduce yourself at The Great MSCSA Get-Together!

Legislative Update

Over the past several weeks, the budget process has really ramped up and the 2015 Minnesota legislative session continues to move ahead. In the past week, higher education committees in both the house and senate have moved budget bills forward. 

The senate budge omnibus bill, SF 5 (Bonoff) passed through the full senate last week. That bill contains a variety of fiscal and policy provisions. Highlights of the bill include:

  • Approximately $59 million in new base funding (titled tuition relief in the bill) for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system. 
  • $24 million in funding for a tuition relief program targeted at Minnesota high school graduates who attend MnSCU colleges and enter certain technical degrees. Grants under this program are "last dollar" meaning they will cover any remaining need a student has after other financial aid is figured in.
  • A variety of financial aid formula changes including increases in the Living and Miscellaneous Expenses Allowance (LME).
  • Language directing MnSCU to create new transfer pathways to facilitate seamless transfer for students. 
  • Modified language aimed at encouraging the use of more co-requisite classes for students who need developmental education.
  • Language aimed at improving how campuses in the state handle incidences of sexual violence. The bill includes changes to report mechanisms and cooperation with law enforcement as well as new training requirements for campus staff, faculty, and students. 

Later today, the house omnibus bill will be heard on the floor. That bill, HF845 will includes new funding for the MnSCU system as well as tuition directives to the Board of Trustees. Some specifics of that bill include: 

  • Approximately $100 million in new base money for the MnSCU system.
  • Directive to the Board of Trustees limiting tuition increases over the next two years. For system universities, a 3 percent increases is allowed in the first year of the biennium with a freeze in the second year. For colleges, tuition is frozen in year one and reduced by 1 percent in year two. 
  • Language similar to that of the senate around sexual violence reporting and training.
  • Identical language to the senate around credit transfer pathways. 

Upon final passage of HF845, a conference committee will be chosen to work through the differences in the two bills and eventually send an agreement to the governor. As has been reported before, Governor Mark Dayton recommends $142 million in new base funding for MnSCU as well as a two year tuition freeze for all campuses.  

2015 Annual Award Winners

We are proud to announce the recipients of our annual MSCSA awards. At the Spring General Assembly on April 11, 2015 at Breezy Point Resort in Brainerd, MN, the recipients were announced and honored. We received many thoughtful nominations and after much deliberation from our selection committee, the recipients below stood out above the crowd. We were excited to unveil two new awards this year, Alumni of the Year and MnSCU Committee Member of the Year. If you missed the awards dinner, you can watch the awards program online! These honorees work tirelessly for the students of Minnesota and took great steps toward furthering the mission of MSCSA. Congratulations to all of those who were nominated and to our selected recipients!




KevinParker GCMemberOfTheYear

Kevin Parker

Governing Council Member of the Year



NicholasThorsen PlatformMemberOfTheYear

Nicholas Thorsen

Platform Committee Member of the Year



JenniferRassett StudentSenateAdvisorOfTheYear

Jennifer Rassett

Student Senate Advisor of the Year



GregCady InstructorOfTheYear

Greg Cady

Instructor of the Year 



ScottFormo AlumniOfTheYear

Scott Formo

Alumni of the Year



KentHanson CollegePresidentOfTheYear

Kent Hanson

College President of the Year



RichardBarnier MnSCUCommitteeMemberOfTheYear

Richard Barnier

MnSCU Committee Member of the Year



RiverlandCCAustin StudentSenateOfTheYear

Riverland Community College - Austin

Student Senate of the Year



EstefaniaNavarro StudentLeaderOfTheYear

Estefania Navarro

Student Leader of the Year 



RochesterCTC KitchenSinkAward

Rochester Community and Technical College

Kitchen Sink Award

This award is given to the student senate who brought everything AND the kitchen sink!



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