APRIL 2017 Legislative Update

April 2017

The likelihood of state action to help college students remains uncertain, given the different proposals in play for need-based aid through the State Grant program. This uncertainly comes despite voter interest in keeping college affordable and the state’s sizable budget surplus.

At this point in the legislative process, both the House and Senate higher education committees have passed their bills out of committee. We can see their different approaches to higher education funding and the State Grant program in particular, in contrast to what Gov. Mark Dayton had proposed earlier in session. Here’s how the different plans for the next two-year budget stack up.

STATE GRANT FUNDING PROPOSALS – as of April

  Administration
House
Senate
New spending $62 million $26 million $10 million
Share of new spending helping students at nonprofit colleges 20% 26% 1%
Average change in grants for students at nonprofits
9% 3% 1% in 2017-18
-2% 2018-19

What’s next
Supporters of doing more to help college students are critical. In the weeks ahead we will be sharing suggestions for you to consider speaking up about the importance of doing the most to invest in helping increase need-based aid.

Meanwhile, Council staff members are in regular contact with legislative and administrative leaders at this stage, working to build their understanding of the benefits of investing in the program and supporting our students’ needs. And we continue to be joined by groups of students coming to the Capitol to meet with legislators in person — including on April 6, when 40 more students visited from Augsburg College, Bethel University, Hamline University and Macalester College.

April 2017

There has been a continuous stream of student advocates at the Minnesota Capitol speaking up for the State Grant program. Some of them have even been testifying on it. Here are some excerpts of what a few had to say.

“The State Grant is more than just a dollar amount, it allowed me to be more involved and have the opportunity to progress.”

—    Brandon Williams, sophomore at Augsburg College, testifying Jan. 19

“My parents have always been able to provide love and as much financial support as they can, but a big chunk of the time I've spent in college I've felt I've been on my own. . . . Not only did I need to learn how to manage my academic schedule, I also had to wade through the complexities of financial aid, and at some point find a job, or three at certain times. . . . The State Grant has helped me fill in the gaps that my parents and I cannot, and it's definitely the reason why I can graduate next year on time.”

—    Mirna Serrano-Barahona, junior at St. Catherine University, testifying Feb. 28

“I vowed to myself that because of the generous financial aid I had received, that I would make the most out of everything that I possibly could . . . without the Minnesota State Grant, none of this would have been possible for me.”

—    Grace Bryan, sophomore at Concordia College, testifying March 2

April 2017

The cause of need-based aid is threatened at the federal level, with President Donald Trump’s initial 2018 budget calling for various cuts. A $4 billion cut in Pell Grant program funding was included and other important resources would be reduced as well, including federal work study, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and funding for TRIO and GEAR UP programs.

To read the latest on the federal proposals and next steps in the budgeting process, here’s a recent article from Inside Higher Ed. Also, there’s an April 7 column in the Washington Post written by a student at Hamline University; she enumerates the problems she sees with the Trump administration’s higher ed proposals.