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College Student Fees Targeted By Youngest MN Lawmaker

College Debt

Student fees at Minnesota’s public universities and colleges used to be something of an afterthought in the whirl of registering for classes. But over the years those fees have become a concern for many students already hit with perpetual tuition hikes. The cost of fees automatically imposed in addition to tuition for students at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus has risen to $432 per semester.

But the Star Tribune reports help is on the way for students who don’t need or want the services funded by their fees.

Fees that help pay for health and recreation centers, school newspapers, student government, collegiate athletics and other campus groups would be optional at Minnesota’s public colleges and universities under a measure moving at the Capitol.

It’s included in a broader, $3.2 billion higher education budget bill that the House passed earlier this month. Lawmakers are now working to finalize a spending plan for public campuses that they will send on to Gov. Mark Dayton.Christensen on Floor

The measure is authored by one of the youngest state legislators in the country–Rep. Drew Christensen, R-Savage. The 23 year old lawmaker ought to know. He’s a 2015 UOM grad who participated in the marching band and Minnesota Student Association. Christensen believes the option could help reduce the soaring cost of college.

Some university administrators and students say making the fees optional could just push those charges onto tuition bills, or threaten the livelihood of vital student groups and services. But Christensen said the costs are unfair to students who don’t want to participate in those activities.

“Students having to work extra jobs to pinch pennies and work their way through college don’t necessarily have time to participate in these student groups and are having to work extra hours or take out more in student loans to be able to afford these student fees,” he said.

The common sense legislation has drawn opposition from student groups whose funding could be compromised. But Christensen says the bill would also make the cost of college more transparent.

He’s concerned colleges are disguising the full cost of education by paying for groups and campus operations out of fees rather than tuition. He said its unfair that students who don’t take advantage of those offerings have to pay for other students to do so.

Under the student-fee provision, the University of Minnesota would be penalized if it implemented a mandatory fee; the state would drop its funding by the amount the university collected in activity fees.

“It’s not that it’s the silver bullet, this isn’t going to suddenly make college affordable, but it helps,” Christensen said.

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