Tommies visit capitol building to promote student grants

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St. Thomas students traveled to the St. Paul Capitol building Thursday, urging legislators to soften college students’ financial burden when the State Grant Program budget is set for the 2010-11 academic year.

Students participating in the Day at the Capitol event, organized by the Minnesota Private College Council, spoke to legislators from their home districts about the $42 million budget deficit to the State Grant Program.

“The more people we can get to support and talk about trying to lobby for not cutting those state grants is the most important thing,” sophomore David Brand said. “[There’s] a necessity for it.”

Given the current projected deficit, 9,363 college students from Minnesota are projected to lose their state grants next year. Students lucky enough to keep their grants can expect a decrease, as grants will drop in value by an estimated range of $250 to $1,800.

Sophomore Greg Scharine, a Wisconsin resident, attended the trip although he doesn’t receive state grants from Minnesota. Instead, Scharine went in support of his fellow students.

“Some of my friends, people in the dorms and people in my classes wouldn’t be able to attend St. Thomas is it wasn’t for this program,” Scharine said. “That takes away the culture [at St. Thomas].”

Last year, the State Grant Program awarded $5.2 million dollars to 1,472 St. Thomas undergraduate students who are Minnesota residents. The average grant was $3,520.

Statewide, the program provided financial aid for 84,518 Minnesota college students this year, more than one-third of college students living in Minnesota.

Sophomore Kiana Williams was optimistic after meeting with her representative, Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis.

“To see how much passion she had for it was very inspiring because I definitely rely on it heavily for education and to be able to go to St. Thomas,” Williams said.

The State Grant Program is one of two government-run grant programs for undergraduate students. The Federal Pell Grant Program is the other, which awarded 1,097 St. Thomas undergraduate students with $4.3 million this year.

“There’s so many people that, if the State Grant Program didn’t exist, they’d be struggling a lot when it comes to going to school,” Williams said. “It really helps.”

Miles Trump can be reached at