Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to sign up for St. Thomas “Day at the Capitol” on Thursday, March 18, and meet with legislators to discuss the importance of the Minnesota State Grant Program.

The St. Thomas contingent will join forces with students from St. Catherine University, St. Olaf College and Hamline University for Day at the Capitol events, which will run from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

This year, the State Grant Program awarded $5.2 million in need-based financial aid to 1,472 St. Thomas undergraduate students who are Minnesota residents, for an average grant of $3,520. The state program is one of two government-backed grant programs; the federal Pell Grant program awarded $4.3 million to 1,097 St. Thomas students, an average of $3,900.

Legislators last year set the state grant budget for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years, but there are concerns the program could face cuts as the state makes up a $1.2 billion shortfall projected for the two-year period that ends June 30, 2011.

“It’s essential that legislators hear from students about the importance of the grant program,” said Doug Hennes, vice president for university and government relations at St. Thomas. “Day at the Capitol is a great opportunity for students, especially grant recipients, to meet with legislators and talk about the grant program.”

The March 18 event will begin with a briefing conducted by Minnesota Private College Council staff members and St. Thomas alumni who are legislators or work at the Capitol. Participants then will meet with senators and representatives from their home districts. Food vouchers will be provided, and St. Thomas will run a bus between the St. Paul campus and the Capitol.

People can sign up for Day at the Capitol until mid-March but are encouraged to do so as early as possible in order to give the MPCC staff members enough time to schedule meetings with legislators. Learn more at the Minnesota’s Private Colleges Web site, where a registration link is available.

Questions? Call Hennes, (651) 962-6402, or David Brand, legislative senator for the Undergraduate Student Government, at (262) 613-9121.