Walz’s budget proposal cuts tuition, expands student aid

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Minnesota students could file college applications for free and receive more financial aid if state lawmakers back a slew of higher education proposals included in Gov. Tim Walz’s spending plan.

Walz’s proposed supplemental budget would establish a college tuition waiver program, expand some state grant programs, fund new scholarships at the University of Minnesota, and freeze college and university tuition. Minnesota state system, among others.

“This pandemic has only exacerbated the need for additional support for our students at our Minnesota higher education institutions,” Minnesota Higher Education Commissioner Dennis Olson said during a briefing. recent press conference with Walz. “The governor’s budget will strengthen efforts currently in place that we know are working well, while also making significant new investments.”

The governor’s focus on affordability comes amid growing concerns about the posted price of a college education and the burden of student debt. House Democrats have also signaled support for some of these proposals, including a tuition freeze in Minnesota state schools. Senate Republicans also have on their minds cutting college costs, as well as bolstering programs that could help grow the state’s workforce.

The college tuition waiver program would begin as a pilot project with an initial investment of $10 million. This would eliminate college tuition fees for undergraduate applicants to public, private, and tribal colleges in the state.

Minnesota students who qualify for the state grant program could receive awards for up to 10 semesters — a change from the current maximum of eight — under Walz’s plan. The average state grant is about $2,600.

About $7 million would be used to create a new competitive grant program encouraging campuses to establish or expand support services for students with children. Students raising children face more barriers to graduating, and research shows they benefit from special counseling, support groups, and help navigating public benefit programs.

A state emergency grant program for students would also benefit from a modest increase in funding from the governor’s budget proposal, as would grant programs for student teachers.

The University of Minnesota would receive an additional $43 million for the current budget cycle, which runs through June 30, 2023, and the State of Minnesota would receive $39 million.

A portion of U funding would be used to create a new Greater Minnesota Scholarship to attract more resident students to U campuses in Duluth, Rochester, Morris and Crookston. The U had introduced the new program, which costs $30 million, as part of its broader legislative request.

Each Minnesota resident who attends the U’s outdoor campuses would receive a scholarship of $3,000 to $4,000 in their freshman year and an additional $4,000 to $5,000 spread over their sophomore year through their senior years. years. Myron Frans, the U’s senior vice president for finance and operations, told the Board of Regents in December that between 8,500 and 9,500 students would benefit from the scholarship scheme.

Minnesota State’s funding allocation would go towards tuition freezes, support for campus operations, and the creation of a statewide Basic Needs Resource Center that would help students to more easily access resources on their campuses.

Representative of the House Higher Education Committee Chair Connie Bernardy, DFL-New Brighton, recently said that her committee would consider various college affordability proposals this year.

Senator David Tomassoni, a Chisholm independent who chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee, said his panel will also look at ways to help students pay for their college education. And he will discuss how state colleges can help address current labor shortages.

“By targeting grants or scholarships to programs and people, we will fill key gaps in critical sectors of our public workforce,” Tomassoni said.

On Wednesday, Bernardy’s committee heard from students talking about pressing issues they wanted to solve.

Representatives of the Minnesota Private College Student Association asked the House panel to consider increasing the maximum state grant allocation.

Axel Kylander, president of community college student association LeadMN, urged lawmakers to consider paying a tuition reduction at Minnesota’s 30 community and technical colleges. LeadMN’s requested tuition reduction of nearly 17% would cost $125 million.

“A tuition cut like this has never been done in a community and technical college system and could have an outsized impact on enrollment and our future workforce,” Kylander said.

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