I’m a student at the University of Minnesota, and I’ll hopefully be graduating this spring with my B.A. in communications studies. I’m grateful for my studies and my experiences; however, it hasn’t been an easy journey.

Getting a college degree is expensive and time-consuming. After taking my liberal-education requirements at Century College to cut costs, I tried to make it on my own by working a moderate number of hours at a job that paid $9 an hour. I ate through my savings at an alarming rate, and my paychecks simply could not keep me afloat. My grades suffered, and my stress level skyrocketed. I realized that I simply could not do both and had to put school on hold to focus on work.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I could not earn a living wage on the kind of work that was available to me. I moved back in with my dad, sold my car to pay for rent and took a job as a barista that I could work in between classes. Even though I have slashed my expenses to focus on school, I can still barely make enough to feed myself and pay my phone bill.

Thankfully, my family has been able to support me through this experience. But how can we possibly expect to build a better-educated society when someone with my many advantages has struggled so much to get by on poverty wages?

Dan Crittenden, Minneapolis


Wading into issues like the U.S. election and contraception

I am delighted by Pope Francis’ warm willingness to validate Christianity outside of rigid Catholic doctrine, but it saddened me to hear him weigh in on two current issues: contraception and U.S. politics.

The Zika virus is a formidable enemy for those whose lives include sexual reproduction, but it’s only one of the reproductive challenges we face. If contraception is now acceptable to avoid the tragedies of Zika (“Pope OKs birth control in Zika areas,” Feb. 19), it surely was acceptable when someone close to me was threatened with grave Rh-negative damage to her offspring in the 1960s. That woman made a personal (and lonely) decision to practice contraception because her heart and intellect told her it was the only decent decision to make. As a practicing Catholic, her choice was extremely painful, not only because she welcomed a large family, but because she genuinely believed her church might be right in telling her she had condemned herself to hell. Religious hierarchies of power must learn how often they devastate their faithful. Pope Francis is a start, so far a very small step.

Then, moving on to U.S. politics, which today are strange to the point of weird, it felt downright bizarre to hear this beloved man weigh in on whether Donald Trump is a Christian (“Pope says Trump border stance is ‘not Christian,’ ” Feb. 19). Though he hedged his bet a bit with an “if,” the pope declared that Trump is not a Christian. Although I have zero respect for Trump as reflected through his nasty rhetoric, there really is no reason for a pope to authenticate the religion of any U.S. presidential candidate. Sadly, Pope Francis sounded judgmental and exclusionary, and neither evaluation is helpful to anyone.

Shawn Gilbert, Bloomington

• • •

Some time ago, I saw a bumper sticker that said: “The brown-skinned antiwar activist and community organizer who wanted free health care for all isn’t Obama. You are thinking of Jesus.”

When Pope Francis suggested that Donald Trump build bridges instead of walls, he was speaking as a Christian about Christian values, which include living a life that is Christlike. Anyone can claim to be a Christian in order to get votes from a particular segment of the population, but their behavior and treatment of fellow human beings comes under scrutiny. Is Trump’s behavior Christlike? To me, he seems anything but. Trump more resembles a school-age bully name-calling and flaming negativity and hatred of various groups of people.

Trump found the pope’s remarks “disgraceful,” saying, “No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.” What I find most ironic about Trump is his indignation that his Christianity comes into question when he has perpetually called President Obama a Muslim — questioning President Obama’s faith as a Christian. Republicans defended Trump against the pope. Why didn’t they defend Obama against Trump? The person who is most disgraceful is Donald Trump!

Karen Luoma-Varichak, Minneapolis

• • •

The pope said Donald Trump is “not Christian” if he wants to address illegal immigration only by building a wall. That is an amusing statement coming from a person surrounded by Swiss guards who lives within the fortified Vatican. It is also incorrect. Walls work, as evidenced by the Great Wall of China, the walls to keep out terrorists in Israel and the sections of the U.S.-Mexico border that have a wall. If thinking that illegal immigration is illegal and that it should be treated as such is not Christian, then by that logic is it Christian to violate a nation’s immigration laws? Christians are called to a higher behavior standard and are required to obey and to enforce laws.

Taylor Swanson, Eden Prairie



So we’re stuck with the bill for the actions of police in skyway ...

My city’s police tasered an African-American man for no reason. The police never acknowledged their wrongdoing or apologized, and of course faced absolutely no consequences whatsoever.

But my fellow citizens and I now get to pick up the tab for the inevitable lawsuit, which was just settled by the city (“St. Paul man settles skyway arrest lawsuit,” Feb. 13, and “St. Paul is set to OK $100K in skyway tasering,” Feb. 19).

Why is there never any accountability for the specific police officers who abuse their power, or for the police leadership or our elected leaders? Why do we have to keep paying for their egregious behavior? When will it ever stop if there’s absolutely no accountability for anyone involved?

Jim McCorkell, St. Paul



It’s Clinton vs. Sanders

Why should people want a woman as president when men have done such a fine job for over 200 years? Well, it’s time for a new path for this country to take. Ignoring 50 percent of the population has gotten us to a real tipping point. Our testosterone-laced leaders have brought us a war-torn world.

Hillary Clinton is far and away the best-prepared candidate to lead our nation. Her collaborative work as secretary of state was exceptional. She’s smart, tough and globally minded.

Nurturing and love bring about real change, not aggression. Feminine wisdom and energy are needed now, and Clinton can lead this change.

Mike McDonald, St. Paul

• • •

For those who support Hillary Clinton because she is a woman and think Bernie Sanders is too radical, just follow the money and see who really cares about “we the people.” Bernie is the real deal and is doing amazingly well, and he is not beholden to corporate interests. Look at their records.

Barry Riesch, St. Paul