Citizenship at Its Finest

Posted on April 14th, 2011 by

by Nicole Meyer ’11

Gustavus students attend Day at the Capitol on April 7, 2011. (Photo by Matt Thomas '00)

The Minnesota state capitol was abuzz Thursday, April 7, 2011 when more than 50 current Gustavus students made their way to the annual Day at the Capitol.

Created as a way for college students to share their opinions and stories about the Minnesota State Grant program, Day at the Capitol allows students to actively exercise their rights as citizens.

While Gustavus is not the only Minnesota school that has a Day at the Capitol to lobby for the State Grant program, it is the only school that has reached every representative in some way or another, every year of attendance. In order to ensure this, students were pulling representatives off the senate floor, meeting them at their offices, and writing them letters.

Students met with elected officials from their hometowns and discussed why the grant program is important for students in general, and more specifically, to them. For those students attending who were from out of state, they either joined other students in talking with their representatives or met with ones who didn’t have any constituents present.

The State Grant program targets students who have the greatest financial need. Nearly 71 percent of students who receive State Grants come from families with household incomes less than $40,000 and 24 percent are from families with incomes between $40,000 and $70,000. Students qualify for grants based on their financial need, which is determined when they fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The State Grant program has a huge impact statewide. More than 85,000 students, or about one of every four Minnesota college students, are receiving State Grant aid this year. However, this academic year about 18,000 Minnesota students lost their awards due to budget cuts.

Why is this so important for Gustavus students?

In the 2009-2010 academic year, there were 728 State Grant recipients on campus, which is 29 percent of all Gustavus students. The average award was $3,699, totaling more than $2.6 million in awards given to Gustavus students.  “It is a very important issue for students and our campus,” says Kate Knutson, assistant professor of political science at Gustavus. “Legislators need to hear the voices of their constituents. It makes a huge difference when they are making decisions about which programs to cut and which to expand.”

Sam Boerboom, visiting assistant professor of communication studies at Gustavus, describes the Day at the Capitol as a great out-of-the-classroom learning experience. “The event helps Gustavus students understand that citizenship is not just something upon which they privately reflect, but is more importantly something they can perform, in public, face to face with those elected representatives making decisions every day on their behalf.”

For some students who are grant recipients, the grant program affects them directly. But for other students, the program affects them more indirectly. Gustavus sophomore and political science major Jessica Flannery says that she attended “not only for my class, U.S. Public Policy, but also because the state grant program is important and I want to ensure that it continues in the future.”

For more information on Gustavus’s Day at the Capitol 2011, watch this video:

Gustavus Day at the Capitol 2011


Comments are closed.