Turning a Yellow Light Green

Written By | State Chair, Faical Rayani and Vice Chair, Lexi Byler

The Board of Trustees is the executive authority on all matters in the Minnesota State system. We have the opportunity to testify during every Board of Trustees meeting. This year, instead of testifying exclusively, as State Chair, I have chosen to put a different student on the spotlight to share their story regarding university affordability every month. The Board of Trustees is composed of outstanding individuals in the Minnesota community including three student trustees. The board truly enjoyed this approach and I hope it will be a refreshing change from other years in the past. A story told by a student who has experienced first hand the unfortunate reality of excessive tuition holds a lot of strength. I am optimistic in hoping the Board of Trustees will make decisions that reduce the abnormally large amounts of student debt (on average $32,000). The October Board of Trustees student story was told by none other than our Vice Chair Lexi Byler!

I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. in Advertising and Public Relations from Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM). I’m currently working on an online Project Management certificate from MSUM. In addition to being the Vice Chair of Students United, I also work at the Minnesota Children’s Museum, which has been great so far!
My college search was unique. As a first generation student, I didn’t have anyone in my family to help guide me through the process. I was also raised by a single mother, in a low-income home. On off all of that, I’m also black. For someone like me, college isn’t guaranteed or even necessarily expected. I never let that deter me though. I knew I wanted to continue my education, I just wasn’t sure how or where. When I received my acceptance letter from MSUM, I was thrilled. It turned the possibility of going to college into a reality; turning a yellow light, green.
Since I wasn’t always sure I would make it to college, I knew I had to take full advantage of the opportunity. I became a heavily involved student. I created the Black Student Union alongside other black students and served as the president of that organization for three years. I was also the diversity chair of MSUM’s Student Senate, the diversity specialist of Students United, MSUM’s marketing intern, and I helped coordinate MSUM’s SMART Start program through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. In addition, I was the captain of MSUM’s women’s rugby team and was on the team the year we won a national championship. I definitely made the most of my time on campus.
Despite having a life-changing experience at MSUM, it didn’t always come easy. I worked 50 hours a week between two to three jobs throughout school and summer to support myself as I pursued my degree. I worked at Early Years Child Enrichment Center, Forum Communications, MSUM’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion,and  MSUM Marketing and Communications throughout my time in college.
Working more hours took away from taking more credits, leading me to have a fifth year of classes and over $60,000 of student debt. The purpose of Minnesota State universities are supposed to be affordable and accessible for everyone. With the continuously rising tuition prices, Minnesota State is no longer affordable or accessible for students and certainly not students whose stories resonate with mine. This is why we need the Minnesota State Board of Trustees to keep college affordable for everyone.



Aly Hagglund