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Policy Update

News You Can Use: 11/10/15

MSCSA Thanks Governor Dayton for his Commitment to Equity and Inclusion for The State of Minnesota

MSCSA has recently sent a letter to the Office of the Governor to thank Mark Dayton for his initiative to diversify the “fabric of state government” and his commitment to equity and inclusion for the State of Minnesota. As a shared priority, the Minnesota State College Student Association is hoping that we can identify areas to work collaboratively on this initiative. Below you can find a copy of the letter that was sent.

If you have any questions, please contact Director of Policy Becca Branum at bbranum@mscsa.org.



Governor Mark Dayton
Office of the Governor & Lieutenant Governor
116 Veterans Service Building
20 West 12th Street
Saint Paul, MN 55155

November 9, 2015

Dear Governor Dayton,

The Minnesota State College Student Association (MSCSA) was pleased to hear your comments following your visit with students at Columbia Heights High School on Friday, October 30, 2015. The changing demographics of Minnesota demand that the state make meaningful strides to make our government and communities more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Your initiative to diversify the “fabric of state government” is welcomed by MSCSA and its students.

As an organization, we have also made equity and inclusion a priority for the 2015-16 school year. Given your recent statements and our own organization’s focus on equity and inclusion, we see an opportunity for collaboration with you and your office moving forward. As you are undoubtedly aware, Minnesota two-year colleges educate the lion’s share of students of color in the state – more than 30% of students enrolled at Minnesota community and technical colleges are students of color. The diversity of our student body represents the future of Minnesota – by 2020, more than 40% of the metro population will be composed of persons of color.

As you move forward on your plans to diversify the “fabric of state government,” MSCSA would like to partner with your office and other community organizations to recruit both student and community leaders of color to the MnSCU Board of Trustees. This year, you will have the opportunity to utilize your appointment power to diversify the Board and ensure better representation for MnSCU students of color. MSCSA would welcome the opportunity to discuss these appointments with your office to identify and recruit leaders and students from communities of color to fill these appointments.

Again, thank you for your commitment to equity and inclusion for the State of Minnesota. The Minnesota State College Student Association looks forward to collaborating with you and your office in the future.


Kevin Parker

Kevin Parker
Minnesota State College Student Association

News You Can Use: 11/5/15

Challenges Facing Undocumented Students in Higher Education

The experience of undocumented students in higher education was a hot topic of conversation at the Minnesota Student Leadership Summit that was held in October. A clear message from the Summit was that students wanted to learn more about undocumented students and how MSCSA represents their interests. This blog post aims to provide a brief introduction to issues surrounding the educational experience of undocumented students and help MSCSA members to better understand the experiences of their undocumented peers.

What does it mean to be an “undocumented student?”

Although definitions of “undocumented” vary, the National Immigration Law Center describes undocumented students as a “foreign national[s] who (1) entered the United States without inspection or with fraudulent documents; or (2) entered legally as a nonimmigrant but then violated the terms of his or her status and remained in the United States without authorization.” Many undocumented students have lived in the United States most of their lives, emigrating with their families at a very young age and lack legal ways to become documented residents of the United States.

How does higher education differ for undocumented students?

The legal uncertainties around an undocumented students’ residential status, these students face many obstacles to pursuing higher education. Rising college costs are difficult for everyone, but undocumented students face obstacles in the ability to pay for their education. Current federal policies bar undocumented students from receiving federal financial aid—including federal subsidized loans and Pell grants. Undocumented students in Minnesota have more options than some other states, however the Minnesota Dream Act allows undocumented students to apply for state financial aid. This financial aid is eligible for use at MnSCU institutions and the University of Minnesota and also allows these students to receive in-state tuition rates.

What other challenges face undocumented students?

Not all of the challenges facing undocumented students are financial in nature. Because of the tenuous legal position of many undocumented students, some students may be fearful of disclosing their status—making the availability of safe spaces all that more important for undocumented students who may wish to discuss their experiences with support and understanding of students in similar positions. Like many students of diverse backgrounds, undocumented students benefit from culturally sensitive environments that validate and support their diversity of experience. MnSCU and fellow students can support undocumented students by treating these students with empathy and respect.

What resources are available to undocumented students and others interested in learning more?

The Obama administration recently released a report “Supporting Undocumented Youth: A Guide for Success in Secondary and Postsecondary Settings.” This report contains tips for educators and policymakers, as well as a list of state and federal resources for undocumented students. Undocumented students interested in learning more about whether they may qualify for in-state aid can visit the Office of Higher Education Dream Act website.

If you have any questions about Minnesota or MnSCU policies surrounding the education of undocumented students, please contact Director of Policy Becca Branum at bbranum@mscsa.org

News You Can Use: 11/3/15

MnSCU Happenings

If there is one thing that MnSCU loves, it’s a committee meeting. System-level committees are well under way for the 2015-16 academic year. Following appointments by President Parker at the September Student Leadership Conference, MSCSA members have attended a wide variety of committee meetings that serve as deliberative and advisory bodies to MnSCU administration. MSCSA students attend these meetings to advocate for the interests of MnSCU college students and participate in the MnSCU policy-development process. The meetings that MSCSA attends generally fall into three broad categories – Academic and Student Affairs Consultation Committees, Chancellor and Board of Trustee meetings, and other ad-hoc committee meetings convened by MnSCU administrators.

In the month of September, MSCSA had particularly positive meetings on the topics of credit transfer and campus diversity. In September, the Transfer Oversight Committee recommended that computer science classes be considered for inclusion in the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum. This recommendation is an exciting development for MSCSA students that will broaden the variety of courses available for transfer from colleges to universities in the MnSCU system. Other exciting news comes from the newly-formed Student Diversity Task Force. Convened by Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Toyia Younger, the task force intends to give students a voice at the system-level on issues pertaining to diversity and inclusion on campus. Although the task force remains in the development stage, MSCSA is enthusiastic for the opportunity to voice the diversity-related concerns of students at the system office.

MSCSA represents students at MnSCU through these committees and several more – in monthly meetings with Chancellor Rosenstone, meetings with state regulators at the Office of Higher Education, and through testimony before the MnSCU Board of Trustees. In October, President Parker testified before the Board of Trustees to emphasize MSCSA’s commitment to the Charting the Future process and the system’s combined interest in fulfilling the goals identified by the MnSCU Leadership Council.

If you have any topics that you would like MSCSA to discuss at upcoming meetings with MnSCU leadership, please contact Director of Policy Becca Branum at bbranum@mscsa.org

News You Can Use: 09/25/15

FAFSA infographic A Small, but Important, Step Towards FAFSA Reform

No one likes filling out the FAFSA, but recent changes by the Obama administration will make the financial aid application process less painful for students. On September 14, President Obama announced changes to existing policy that will allow students to access and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form in October rather than January of the year in which they enter college. In addition, several questions about family income will be removed and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will provide income data to determine eligibility. These seemingly small changes will help students make wise financial decisions regarding their higher education and lessen the burden of applying for aid. 

The federal government and colleges use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for a variety of need-based aid programs, including Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), and federally subsidized student loans. Previous policy only permitted students to access the FAFSA application in January, limiting the amount of time available to students to weigh their grant and aid eligibility against the costs of attending college. Beginning in October 2016, students will have early access to the FAFSA form and many questions about family income will no longer be necessary – rather than rely on colleges to verify financial information provided by students, the FAFSA will use the financial and tax data provided by the IRS to determine aid eligibility. 

These changes will benefit students nation-wide. Student and higher education advocacy organizations have pushed for FAFSA reform for years, noting that the complicated application is burdensome to students and can be a barrier to first generation and low-income students that may not have access to any services to help fill out the form. These barriers translate into available grants going unclaimed. According to the U.S. Department of Education, during the 2011-12 academic year, 2 million students who would have qualified for Pell Grants received no funding – simply because they did not fill out the FAFSA form. A streamlined, simplified process will make the FAFSA more accessible and mean that more students will have access to need-based funding in the future.  

To learn more about efforts to reform the FAFSA application, visit the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Post Secondary Success Initiative

MN SELF Loan website exposes student data

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) says that student data was exposed because of a coding error in the SELF Loan website. The compromised data includes names, social security numbers and email addresses. At this point OHE is still determining how many accounts were affected, but that at this point there is no evidence of hacking. It doesn’t look like the data was downloaded at all and was only viewable on the site. The error was discovered by a student who saw names and other private data on the site and notified OHE. More information on the glitch will be available this week. Read more about the SELF Loan data exposure here.

The Chronicle of Higher Education asks, students, recent graduates, parents and experts, “How much student-loan debt is too much?”



Click here for an interesting infographic that asks what is the most that you should borrow for a bachelor’s degree?



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