DFL Leader spikes debt conversations with students

House DFL Minority Leader Paul Thissen visited St. Cloud State Thursday to sit down with students, faculty and college administrators about the cost of higher education, student debt and its impact on families. The visit was part of a college affordability tour that is taking place statewide this year.

SCSU isn’t the first college that Thissen has visited for a roundtable discussion. He also went to the University of Minnesota-Rochester and MSU-Mankato. The main topic for the meeting was the tuition hike students will be seeing, because tuition did not freeze.

Thissen stated on his website:

“Why, with a $2 billion surplus is tuition going up? The answer is simple, House republicans would rather put those dollars toward corporate and business tax breaks. In fact, they insisted on keeping nearly $1 billion of our surplus on our state’s bottom line for a potential tax giveaway in 2016 when an extra $85 million would have frozen tuition for every Minnesota student for the next two years.”

According to the Minnesota House of Representatives, Minnesota ranks fifth in the nation for student debt, with the average student facing approximately $30,894 in debt.

No tuition freeze will mean students at SCSU will be paying $237 more per year, with an additional room and board increase of $695.

Justin Onyenemezu is a freshman at St. Cloud State. He was born here, but spent most of his life in Africa before coming back to Minnesota when he turned 16. He said the news of the lack of tuition freezes came as a surprise.

“It is a lot to take in… It sucks for a lot of students in Minnesota,” Onyenemezu said.

Before beginning school, first-year students are required to take a course on what it means to take out student loans.

“I am not a fan of owing money, and having that in the back of my mind, that I have to owe money after this period of time is added weight. The increase in tuition adds stress and strain on students,” Onyenemezu said. “Instead of thinking of what is happening in school with projects and papers, students are thinking, ‘how am I going to pay this amount when I’m done?’”

Thissen said in a press release that he believes more must be done to make college more affordable to Minnesota students and families.

Until then, Onyenemezu says, “We can only hope for the best and hope that something happens and they try to change something about it.”

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