January 2013 Legislative Update

Thanks for your support of Advocates for Minnesota Student Aid. Your interest in speaking up for college students and financial aid can make a difference for students!

In this issue, read about Gov. Dayton’s proposal for financial aid, a fact about the State Grant and what you can do.

Governor aims to boost financial aid for college students

Gov. Mark Dayton put an unprecedented priority on increasing need-based financial aid for college students in the budget he proposed on Feb. 22. Noting his concern about middle-class families and college access, he recommended a 25 percent increase in funding for the State Grant program — the most sizable increase in the program’s funding since it was created in the 1980s.

“Governor Dayton has proposed a historic increase in the state’s investment in our college students — and Minnesota’s economic future,” said MaryAnn Baenninger, board chair of Minnesota Private Council and president of the College of Saint Benedict. “We applaud the governor’s initiative. This is welcome news for the one out of four students from Minnesota who receive these grants, and the thousands of students who would become eligible.”

Maikang Xiong quoteThe governor proposed spending $389 million on the State Grant program over the state’s next two-year budget cycle, an increase of $80 million. Students would see their grants increase on average by $300 and up to $1,000, said Larry Pogemiller, director, Minnesota Office of Higher Education. And more than 5,000 students would become eligible to receive grants.

Currently about 95,000 students receive the grants. Coming from low- and middle-income families, they enroll part-time and full-time, attending all kinds of colleges — public and private, two-year and four-year.

“This is the kind of targeted investment that our state needs to make, to ensure we have a highly educated workforce,” Baenninger said. “To put it simply, helping college students helps us all.”

The new funding for the State Grant program is part of a broader package of more than $500 million of new spending on education that the governor has proposed. This package includes increases for the state’s public universities, expanded funding for special education in K-12 schools and new preschool scholarships.

State Grant fact

An average State Grant award covered about 15% of tuition and fees in 2011-12 — down from 26% in 2001-02. New investment in the State Grant program will help more students succeed — and build Minnesota’s economic success and prosperity.

State Grant buying power drops

What you can do: Flag this issue for others

If you care about students being able to afford college, raise the issue with friends and family members in Minnesota. Here are a few steps to consider:

Now’s the time for more people to get involved. There’s $80 million on the line, thanks to Governor Dayton’s budget proposal. To ensure we are investing in our students’ future through the State Grant program, legislators will need to decide to support it. And they won’t take that step unless they’re hearing from college students, their parents, alums and other supporters.

Stay tuned for future communications from Advocates for Minnesota Student Aid – we’ll let you know how you can make your voice heard.