Students in an Honors class at Minot State University learned about the power of social protest this semester and how it can affect their own futures.
For two weeks, the six students in the class set up a table in the Student Center where fellow students could sign petitions and get informed about what the students consider an injustice: The state Legislature initially agreed to fund higher education at a target of 65 percent of the total cost, and is instead funding it at 53 percent.
That costs students an average of $5,600 over their college careers, said Jessica Cook, a student in the class.
Andrea Johnson/MDN - - Jill Bechtold, left, and Whitney Martin were among students protesting last week in the Student Union. The protesters, part of an honors social protest class, said the state Legislature has said the state should fund tuition at 65 percent and students at 35 percent. Instead, the Legislature’s share of funding for higher education is at 53 percent.
Andrea Johnson/MDN - - The information board set up to outline the demands include a visual of the 65/35 cost split the protestors say the state promised but isn’t providing for tuition.
"Minot State students on average will graduate with $20,351 in debt after their four years at Minot State University and that's with us paying 47 percent of the cost," said Cook, a sophomore from Atlanta.
That amount of debt can limit future choices for students, said Cook and fellow students Jill Bechtold and Whitney Martin.
Bechtold and Martin said college is hardly affordable now at the rate students must pay. In the future, it might impact their ability to buy a house, where they choose to live and what kind of job they can take, since they will need to make enough to make student loan payments.
If the Legislature funded higher education at 65 percent, students could save significantly, about the cost of one student loan payment per year, said Cook.
"All we want them to do is meet their target," Cook said.
The class decided on the protest as a class project and conducted research online at the North Dakota University System Web site about the target the Legislature had set for funding higher education.
During the course of the two weeks, Cook said the students in the class collected 194 student signatures. They also have an online petition linked to the group's Facebook page at (Facebook.com/fairsharenorthdakota) The Facebook page and the petition will continue after the class is finished, Cook said.
Cook said students in the class plan to testify before the higher education committee when it meets in Fargo in February. It's a four-hour drive from Minot, but students think it's important enough to make the journey.
Cook said she also learned more about the value of social protest during the class. The class studied the women's suffrage movement and the Boston Tea Party and other historical protests.
"Protesting does help. It does work," said Cook, who said she will be more likely to speak up in the future and express an opinion when something is happening that impacts her life.
Other members of the class were Josh Sandy, Eric Dubose and Kaitlyn Dahlberg. The class was taught by associate English professor ShaunAnne Tangney.