Driving Change in Higher Education.

Policy Update

News You Can Use: 05/27/16

Get Out The Vote Kicks Off with Summer INterns

Summer has officially begun and the office is abuzz with Get Out the Vote Interns! At our kick off meeting on Monday, May 23rd interns shared what they want to accomplish through the internship.  Our interns were in agreement that they all wanted to make sure every student knows that their vote matters and it makes a real impact. There was also a lot of competition over the MSCSA Voter Cup! Multiple interns revealed their determination to win the illustrious cup including Gloria Watkins, Oscar Corral, Emilio Galvan, and Nalima Mwassa.

The interns also did a storytelling training during our meeting. This training helped them work through their personal story about why voting is important to them. They came up with some very powerful stories that centered on the theme that every vote is heard and every person has a voice. The main take away was that values inspire action through emotion.

This summer the Get Out the Vote interns will work on multiple projects including: summer class raps at colleges around the state, creating campus field plans, helping to create GOTV materials, and working on training videos for Get Out the Vote. Look for intern updates and more on how you can start to prepare for Get Out the Vote in the fall!

Remember, values inspire action through emotion. Your story and your passion will be the greatest tool to reach out to students this summer and fall. You have the power to make a huge impact on your life and the lives of students through your vote. 

News You Can Use: 03/31/16

A Tale of Two Testimonies

Legislative session is in full swing and that means the MSCSA cabinet is hard at work advocating for the interests of Minnesota’s community and technical college students. On Tuesday, March 29, President Kevin Parker and Vice President Tim St. Claire took to the Capitol to make MSCSA’s voice heard on two issues close to our students’ hearts – developmental education and open educational resources.

Developmental Education

Developmental education has been a hot-button issue at the legislature and this session is no different. MSCSA President Kevin Parker spoke on behalf of the organization before the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee on HF3083. Developmental education courses are often a significant barrier for students in the MnSCU system. Disproportionately affecting students of color, developmental education courses often carry no credit while costing full price and eat into state and federal aid eligibility. We also know that students enrolled in developmental education are less likely to stay in college and graduate with a degree. MSCSA is enthusiastic about identifying solutions to the developmental education puzzle so that more students can succeed in the MnSCU system.

Open Educational Resources

It wouldn’t be a day at MSCSA without Vice President Tim St. Claire talking about textbooks. Tim took his passion for textbook affordability and open educational resources before the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee to advocate for a bill sponsored by MSCSA. MSCSA’s bill would build on the good work being done at the MnSCU system office by increasing funding for open educational resource pilot projects across the system. To learn more about MSCSA’s work on open educational resources, click here

News You Can Use: 03/28/16

Student Voices Heard Loud and Clear in St. Paul and Washington D.C.

MSCSA has been busy in March advocating for the interests of community & technical colleges across the state of Minnesota. On March 14-15, MSCSA leaders met with elected officials in Washington D.C. to lobby on federal issues affecting students in Minnesota. In addition, students met with several non-profit groups to learn more about higher education policy and how MSCSA can advance higher education for community and technical college students.

On March 23rd, MSCSA had its annual Advocacy Day at the Minnesota State Capitol. Despite the ongoing capitol construction, students met with legislators from across the state to deliver a unified message about affordability, open educational resources, and equity in higher education. The following outlines MSCSA’s state legislative agenda for 2016 aimed at benefitting students state-wide.

MnSCU Bonding Proposal

MSCSA supports the MnSCU bonding proposal, which requests $254.5 million in projects. $110 million of this proposal is for HEAPR projects. HEAPR – Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement – projects help keep our students warm, safe, and dry. Investing in existing infrastructure is a cost effective way to ensure that students have adequate resources to succeed in MnSCU institutions. Repair work to infrastructure may not be the most exciting issue, but functional facilities are key to student success. It’s true what they say: HEAPR is cheaper!

MnSCU Supplemental Request

MSCSA is grateful to the legislature for funding a tuition freeze and decrease for community and technical college students. To build on this good work and to ensure quality across the MnSCU system, MSCSA is advocating for MnSCU’s supplemental budget request. The $21 million requested by MnSCU will help protect the investment that the legislature made last year.

Open Educational Resources

MSCSA is sponsoring legislation that will build on MnSCU’s investment into open educational resources. Open educational resources (OERs) are electronic textbooks that can be fully customizable by faculty and are often free to use. MSCSA believes that OERs are key to reducing textbook costs for students. Because more than 20% of a community or technical college student’s costs come from textbooks, movement towards OERs would translate to huge savings for students. MSCSA’s bill will continue to fund OER pilot programs on campuses across the state and supplement the Open Education Resource Learning Network. To learn more about MSCSA’s work on textbook affordability, click here.

To view our state legislative materials, click here.

News You Can Use: 02/15/16

Let’s Get Ready to Caucus!

Are you to excited to caucus? MSCSA sure is! Whether you’re “feeling the Bern” or you’re more of a “Trump-eter” – make your voice heard on March 1 as Minnesotans all over the state caucus to help choose the candidates that will represent the Democratic and Republican parties in the 2016 presidential election.

What’s a Caucus?

A caucus is a meeting where members of the community come together and nominate the person they want to represent their political party as a candidate for President of the United States. This year, Minnesotans will be caucusing on “Super Tuesday” along with 11 other states that will also be holding primaries or caucuses on the same day. So far, there hasn’t been a clear winner for either the Republican or Democratic nominee – meaning that it is more important than ever for you to participate and have your voice heard!

Why Should I Caucus?

So much of higher education policy is decided at the federal level. Student loans, textbook costs, veteran’s issues, equity & justice – so many of these issues are dealt with at a federal level. It is important that the voice of students is heard during the caucuses so that candidates and whoever wins the nomination is responsive to student concerns. Whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, or something else entirely, MSCSA wants all students to have their voices heard so that all students can do better. To learn more about the prominent Presidential candidates, visit Ballotpedia.

How Do I Caucus?

To find your caucus location in Minnesota, visit the Secretary of State’s MnVotes website. To be eligible to caucus, you must be eligible to vote and live in the precinct in which you caucus. By law, your employer must allow you time off work to caucus, so long as you give ten days notice. To learn more, visit here. In addition, public universities and colleges may not hold meetings on caucus night so that all Minnesota students are able to have their voices heard. For information from the Minnesota Republican Party on caucusing, click here. Information on caucusing from the Minnesota Democratic-Farm-Labor (DFL) party is available here.

Happy caucusing!

News You Can Use: 01/29/16

New Minnesota Educational Debt Refinancing Program

Good news from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education! Do you or your family members struggle to make payments on your loans from college? Worried about being able to make payments after you graduate from a MnSCU community or technical college? The new Minnesota SELF Refi program might be able to help! SELF Refi is a state-sponsored loan refinancing program available to Minnesotans that have completed a postsecondary course of study and meet relevant credit criteria. 

What’s Refinancing?

Refinancing allows you to take the loans you currently have and potentially obtain a lower interest rate – saving you money on interest rates in the long term. SELF Refi offers 5, 10, and 15-year repayment windows and both fixed and variable interest rates. Fixed interest rates will stay the same throughout your entire repayment window but are a bit higher; variable interest rates are lower but fluctuate in response to market conditions – meaning you could be required to pay a higher interest rate in the future. Depending on the loans you have, SELF Refi may be able to offer you a lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying. Check out this handy repayment calculator to see if refinancing through this program makes sense for you.

Don’t Let Debt Keep You Down

We hear from students every day about how scared they are about the prospect of paying back their student loans. The average associate degree graduate in Minnesota leaves school with more than $20,000 debt – equaling a $200 per month payment for 10 years. For many people already struggling to make ends meet, $200 per month is too much to ask. Debt is scary, but know that you have options. The federal government and other loan programs often offer income-based repayment options. If you or your family are having trouble making payments or are already in default, check out this helpful information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. There are programs that can help you if you get into default – seeking help early can avoid many headaches down the road.

MSCSA knows how hard loans make the lives of students in Minnesota. That’s why we’re fighting for debt-free community college. To learn more about our campaign, visit the Renew Our Promise website.

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