By 10 a.m. Monday, the four students could see the Capitol and were "high in spirits."
They were also sore in limb.
The seniors from Minnesota State University, Mankato, had just walked 95 miles -- from their student union, along the Sakatah Singing Hills Trail, on county roads and state highways, beside train tracks and strip malls -- to the State Capitol.
"There it is," Brett Anderson said. He eyed the steep granite staircase. "Well, boys..."
They limped and laughed to the top, then eased into sitting positions. They had come all this way to deliver a message: Students care about funding higher education.
"E-mails and letters and calls only go so far," said Tom Williams, 22, president of the student association at Minnesota State, Mankato.
Lawmakers were understandably occupied Monday, but the students caught the ear of a few. They urged them to make higher education a higher priority.
Williams worries about cuts to faculty and financial aid and bumps in tuition, he said, pointing to the effects of deep budget problems earlier this decade.
Further tuition increases won't affect these four; they'll all be seniors next year. But they want to make changes for the students who follow them.
Anderson pointed at a group of kids posing for photos. "One of the sixth-grade groups here today is from Mankato," he said. "Six years from now they'll be going to college. We're worried about them."
Suddenly, a blond boy approached. "Do you know Cheri Bowyer?" he asked. "She's my grandma."
"Yeah!" the guys exclaimed. (Williams later explained that Bowyer is the student association's office assistant and "pretty much the boss and mother of us all.") "I've seen you in the office! Is this your class?"
They decided to get a photo with the sixth-graders, who were gathered at the bottom of the steps. The blond boy bounced down ahead of them.
"Whoa! Little boy!" Williams yelled, hobbling after him on swollen knees. "Wait!"
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168