Invested in higher education; Dayton’s running mate visits with Riverland students, faculty
Published 11:30 am Tuesday, September 23, 2014
More investments in higher education and creating conditions for more jobs in Minnesota were just a few topics Democratic Lt. Gov. Candidate Tina Smith addressed when she visited Riverland Community College in Austin on Monday.
Smith spoke with more than a dozen Riverland students and educators who shared their concerns about tuition costs and the price of postsecondary education. Smith echoed their concerns and touted the state’s efforts under Gov. Mark Dayton to address education through tuition freezes and more funding for programs.
“Things are going well but everyone is working so hard,” she said.
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Smith, Dayton’s former chief of staff, was announced as Dayton’s running mate for re-election campaign back in February. If elected, she will replace Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner-Solon, who has signaled her intent to spend more time with her family after her term is done.
Before her time under Dayton, Smith was former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s chief of staff for several years and worked in marketing and communications in the private sector. She also worked as a vice president for Planned Parenthood in Minnesota.
Several students shared stories about sacrifices they are making to get their education. One nursing student said she and her significant other had to choose which of them would go to college first because of their finances, while another student shared her struggles raising her niece while going to school and working a full-time job.
Smith told students she respected how much work people have to put in just to earn a college degree and said she hoped to work with Gov. Dayton on making a postsecondary education more affordable.
The lieutenant governor candidate isn’t the only Democrat working on education. The state House DFL pledged their support on Monday for a tuition freeze through 2017, which would extend the current freeze by two years. DFL lawmakers also proposed expanding student loan forgiveness programs for college graduates who take needed jobs in Greater Minnesota as well as debt relief for students who take jobs through ServeMinnesota, a part of AmeriCorps.
Smith said such goals would need to be worked out during the budget process, but she noted Dayton would likely support more action on education initiatives.
“It is the key to our competitive advantage in Minnesota,” Smith said. “We have the best workforce and we have to invest in that if we want it to continue.”