Students and union members gathered on Northrop Mall Thursday to protest high fees, tuition and administrative costs at the University of Minnesota.
The protest was organized by Students for a Democratic Society as part of the annual event, National Day of Action for Education Rights.
“This is an opportunity for students nationally to join together and say education is a right,” said graduate student and SDS member, Grace Kelley. “The soaring cost of higher education is not a future that we endorse.”
SDS is calling for salary cuts for high-earning administrators, including a 15% cut for president Kaler.
Last year, Kaler declined a 3% raise totaling more than $18,000, instead donating the money towards undergraduate scholarships according to the Board of Regents.
However, not all students see tuition rates as in issue. Freshman business major Alanna Stangl said compared to other colleges, tuition at the University does not seem excessive.
“I wouldn’t say we are known for being super expensive,” Stangl said. “I wouldn’t be opposed to [lower tuition], but I don’t think it is a major issue.”
Protesters rallied not only for decreased tuition rates, but also a redistribution of funds within the University.
Barb Bezat, president of a local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union at the University challenged president Kaler to lower administrative spending and, “put the money where it needs to be.”
“It needs to go to the front line staff,” said Bezat. “It needs to go to the people who teach the students here at the University.”
Economics sophomore Kevin Fu said he would rather the University spend more money on faculty over administrative roles.
“My opinion is that the president has the least important role in the University,” he said. “The faculty is the real core of the University, not the president himself.”
American studies graduate student Matthew Boynton said graduate students should also see higher wages.
“We do most of the work that goes on behind the doors,” Boynton said. “The grad students and staff really make this university run and we deserve to be recognized for that.”
The University’s administration costs have been under a magnifying glass this year, after a Wall Street Journal article in December said the University is among the top management-heavy institutions.
The University has since hired an independent consulting firm, New York-based Sibson Consulting to identify opportunities for spending improvement.
In a preliminary report released in March, Sibson pointed to several ways the University could become more efficient, including decreasing the supervisor to employee ratio.
“It’s time to make the hard decisions,” said Bezat. “It’s not an easy task, but they have to chop from the top.”