When my family and I moved to Minnesota after fleeing civil war in Somalia, we could barely put food on the table while paying rent each month. I put everything I had into getting a degree, so that I could take care of myself and the people that I loved. I never imagined that one day my community would elect me to serve at the Capitol, giving me the opportunity to build a state that serves and protects others who struggle to make ends meet.
Education was my ticket to that opportunity.
As a cultural, intellectual and innovative hub for both Minneapolis and the state, the University of Minnesota is a springboard for students of all backgrounds into successful, meaningful careers. It’s taught Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, two former Vice Presidents, successful entrepreneurs, and film makers. It is one of Minnesota’s greatest assets.
All this is to say that, as your state representative, college accessibility and affordability is a top priority of mine. But as the Minnesota Daily has reported, Minnesota college students graduate with an average of $31,000 in student debt.
I’m working to make sure the University has the backing from the state that it deserves, to help the students who carry the burden of that debt. The biggest task the legislature faces this session is to write a new two-year state budget. When crafting the budget, my DFL colleagues and I are committed to prioritizing our values of affordable, high-quality education, fairness, and investing in our people. That means tackling the issues that add to that student debt, which include both tuition and housing.
I know from experience that people who have never signed a contract or dealt with complex legal language – like immigrants and students – are disproportionately impacted by housing policies that favor landlords and leave renters in the lurch. The House will soon vote on my bipartisan bill (House File 495) which would require more transparency and consumer protections in lease agreements.
The bill, which is likely to be passed by the House and the Senate in the coming weeks, would prevent scenarios where students are required to pay for the full final month or rent even when they are required to move out before the month has ended; require that renters be told lease start and end dates and which unit they will live in before signing; and prohibit landlords from raising rent in the middle of the contract year.
Stable housing is fundamental to getting a degree. Students deserve to know exactly what to expect when they rent, and not to be caught off guard by what the lease contains. This will help ensure a smooth transition when moving, and avoid gaps in housing. This bill will level the playing field so that tenants are less likely to be taken advantage of by landlords.
I also look forward to working with Governor Walz to strengthen the state’s support the university, in order to prevent tuition hikes. Our state government needs to work closely with the University to achieve our common goals of access and affordability in our state’s major institutions.
I will work to strengthen our investment in the U to ensure that no one is priced out of seeking a higher education, so that everyone can have the same opportunities I had in getting ahead.
If you have questions about what the Legislature is working on, you can reach me at 651-296-4257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your stories and experiences inspire me and my colleagues every day.