Clusters of University of Minnesota students lined the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol Wednesday before setting out to advocate for student issues with state lawmakers.
Gathered for Support the U Day, a University initiative to increase visibility at the Legislature, the students met with lawmakers to push the school's $87 million biennial budget request and attended committee hearings. Following a recent increase in recommended funding by DFL Gov. Tim Walz, participants looked to further push the school’s legislative agenda.
"I honestly don't think that other universities could offer resources at the level the University does,” Riley Fletcher, a freshman at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, said in front of the House higher education committee. “It offers so many opportunities.”
Minnesota Student Association leaders said they pushed hard for students to attend Support the U Day this year. The MSA's Government and Legislative Affairs team held a workshop for the first time last month to prepare students who are planning to attend.
The workshop outlined what the day would look like, how students should dress, how to navigate the Capitol and the best way to advocate for University issues.
"We've been doing Support the U Day for many years now, but we've seen lower turnout at those kinds of events in the past, and this year we're really making a stronger push," said Christina Laridaen, MSA Government and Legislative Affairs coordinator.
In addition to the budget request, students were encouraged to push for University infrastructure projects and certain policy bills.
MSA President-designate Mina Kian said she is pushing college affordability bills beyond tuition, like textbook, housing and food affordability.
Support the U Day comes after Walz adjusted his budget proposal last month. Under his initial proposal, the University would have received $39 million of their biennial budget ask. Walz’s new proposal allocates around $51 million for the University.
Student government leaders across system campuses said their lobbying efforts, including a coordinated letter to the governor's office, contributed to this adjustment.
"We put a lot of work into [the letter] and I think student advocacy works. I think in that situation I'm really happy to see his budget changed," said Rochester Student Association President Emily Hayes.
While the increase was welcomed, Kian said Support the U Day should demonstrate the University's need for further resources in order to curb tuition increases.
“We’re never done asking for funding, Kian said. “I think having these conversations one-to-one with legislators is one of the best ways to remind them of the significance of the students and the institutions as a whole.”