When Gov. Mark Dayton released his budget Jan. 28, it prioritized strengthening the State Grant program. He proposed investing $25 million in increasing State Grant funding, which is a 7 percent increase over the previous biennium. At a time when potential sources of new funding are very limited, this kind of increase is significant.
In addition, Gov. Dayton proposed some improvements in how the program works, including:
- Raising the cap that limits the amount of tuition that is recognized when awards are set: This helps lower-income students have the same college choices as more affluent students, building more fairness into the program. The tuition cap for four-year institutions is currently set below the tuition at the University of Minnesota; raising it would help students at both the U of M and private nonprofit institutions. The tuition cap for two-year institutions would also be improved.
- Improving how the awards address students' living expenses. Currently, when awards are set the expenses that are recognized are below the federally recognized level of poverty. Changing this would help all State Grant recipients.
Almost 100,000 students currently receive State Grant awards; they attend two- and four-year institutions, both public and private. Some are traditional students, going on straight after high school. Others are returning to college after being in the workforce. The governor's proposal would allow about 12,000 additional students to be able to receive these awards.
The fate of the governor's State Grant proposals will depend on what happens in the legislative process, as well as final negotiations over higher education spending at the end of the session. Meanwhile, it is important for the governor to hear from supporters of investing in fin