A group of Auggies got a glimpse inside the legislative process during this year’s Day at the Capitol on March 1. Organized by the Minnesota Private College Council (MPCC) in support of the Minnesota State Grant program, this annual event develops student advocacy skills, provides professional networking opportunities, and brings student voices and concerns to the capitol.
The Minnesota State Grant provides need-based financial aid that goes directly to students. Fifty-two percent of Augsburg undergraduates receive funding through the program, with an average award of nearly $6,000. The focus of this year’s Day at the Capitol was to ask legislators and Governor Walz to make a substantial new investment in the program by lowering the share of college costs that the grant formula expects students to cover from 50% to 36%.
Along with representatives from the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, Augsburg students took the Green Line to the capitol and kicked off the day with a training featuring Representative Mike Howard ’05. Then, they met in small groups with their hometown legislators to discuss expanding support for the state grant as well as other issues on students’ minds.
“It was so eye-opening for me,” said Carol Hei Yue Lee ‘24, a social work major, vice president of Augsburg Day Student Government, and Campus Kitchen intern. “At first I didn’t know how the process worked, since my representatives aren’t on the committee that oversees the state grant. But MPCC talked us through how legislators talk about issues with their colleagues and get them to sign on to a bill.”
Lee met with Woodbury Representative Ethan Cha and Senator Nicole Mitchell. “People think legislators look scary, but they are very nice. Representative Cha told us his backstory and experiences as a refugee, fighting for his family and his kids’ rights. I was able to talk about food insecurity, which is a very serious issue and it connects with the state grant.”
For Abby Petersen ’24, the experience complemented their work as a campus organizer through the Minnesota Youth Collective. “I’ve done organizing, but I’ve never had the opportunity to spend a day at the capitol or actually meet a legislator,” they said. “It was super interesting and it went by so fast.”
Both Petersen and Lee noted that the event built connections with other students and helped spur ideas about how to continue their activism on campus. “I was impressed with the number of Augsburg students who showed up,” said Petersen, who transferred to Augsburg last fall and is majoring in social work. “It was really fun to meet other students who are also interested in doing advocacy work. Our group met with Representative Mohamud Noor, who was so supportive, and people brought up food issues and transit accessibility and asked about expanding the state grant program to grad students—we had a long conversation about that.”
Lee ended the day with a sense of deeper community and expanded horizons. “Representative Cha told us, ‘You can be legislators too,’” she said. “Everything is possible.”