The proposal, which would cost each full-time student an extra $7.80 per year, got a lukewarm reception Wednesday, May 19, at a meeting of the Minnesota State Board of Trustees, which governs student fees in the public college and university system.
Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra said he heard in a meeting of college presidents a lot of skepticism about the proposal.
“There was a strong sentiment of these college presidents that perhaps this proposal is a duplication of efforts or may not bring about the intended results or may be fraught with some other operational issues,” he said.
LeadMN President Priscilla Mayowa said the plan emerged from a survey that found students were struggling with job loss, food insecurity and mental health. The group worked with a consultant to come up with ideas to address those problems.
If the fee hike is approved, the association would hire five benefits navigators to help connect students with resources to meet their basic needs. They also want three outreach staffers to market their services and a development director to lead fundraising. The organization would offer students help with career exploration, too.
Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra.
Mayowa said 68% of campus representatives at their general assembly voted in favor of the proposal — barely passing the two-thirds mark they needed.
“Students have said that they want more services provided to them,” and they understand that takes money, she said.
The proposed higher fee, at 61 cents per credit, is what university students in the Minnesota State system already pay to their association, Students United.
Mayowa said their survey found students are most willing to talk about their issues with fellow students, so the association is in the best position to help.
Jerry Jeffries, statewide chair for the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, said untrained students should not be advising each other on financial resources and mental health. He said LeadMN’s plan “will be harmful to students and employees” and jeopardize students’ health and financial well-being.
Jeffries said it’s also possible colleges would leave student services positions open longer if they know LeadMN has people doing the same kind of work.
Mayowa said there’s room for both student and professional advisers.
“The resources are far too small for the need that is very big,” she said.
Oballa Oballa, a student member of the Board of Trustees and former LeadMN president, said campuses vary widely in their level of support for students. He said LeadMN’s plan “will really benefit students.”
Roger Moe, the board’s vice chair, said the board generally supports LeadMN’s goal of better serving students but that student services usually are handled by each campus. He asked Malhotra to solicit input from the student senates from each campus before the board acts on the fee proposal at a future meeting.