FEBRUARY 2017 Legislative Update

February 2017

The interests of college students in Minnesota’s need-based aid have been coming up at the Capitol, including at a hearing of the Senate higher education committee on Jan. 19 when legislators heard from Brandon Williams, a sophomore at Augsburg College. A State Grant recipient, he shared the importance of this support in his life.

“The State Grant is more than just a dollar amount, it's more of how my government and my community support me,” Williams said. “The program gives everyone the sense that there is a possibility to progress.”

Presidents from the University of St. Thomas, Saint John’s University, Bethel University and Concordia University, St. Paul spoke to both the House and Senate higher education committees in January. They addressed the unique role their institutions play, as well as the importance to their students of receiving State Grant awards.

Support for the program has also been voiced at the Capitol recently by representatives from the Minnesota State student organization, Students United. Speaking to the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Policy and Finance Committee on Jan. 31, that group asked for an increase in State Grant funds. U of M student Will Dammann spoke to the committee as well that day, sharing his own story. “I am a full Pell Grant and Minnesota State Grant recipient,” he said. “And that is one of the only reasons I am able to attend the University of Minnesota.”

Legislators have been hearing from students by mail too. Events were held in January at Macalester College and Carleton College where State Grant recipients came together to write notes thanking policymakers for sustaining the program.

Thank you note writing at Carleton College
Thank you note writing at Carleton College
February 2017

Most federal observers believe that the first federal agenda to affect higher education will be a deregulation agenda, with the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress looking to undo Obama administration regulations and executive orders related to teacher preparation programs, distance learning programs and possibly the Department of Labor’s new overtime pay rule, which had a significant impact on certain aspects of college operations.

As for the Pell Grant program and other federal government programs that help keep college affordable, it is too early to tell where the new administration will head. As a candidate, higher education issues were not frequent themes for President Trump. In October, Trump did express concerns about student loans and endorsed a more generous income-based loan repayment plan. Many observers are worried, however, that funding for financial aid and loan programs will be targeting for spending reductions by the new Congress.

February 2017

College students will be coming to St. Paul starting in February to help legislators become more aware about the importance of need-based aid through the State Grant program. Count on lots of private college students at the Capitol on these dates:

  • February 22: College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University, The College of St. Scholastica, Concordia College (Moorhead)
  • March 7: Concordia University (St Paul), St. Catherine University, University of St. Thomas
  • March 21: Bethany Lutheran College, Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
  • April 6: Augsburg College, Bethel University, Hamline University, St. Olaf College

If you’re a student at these institutions who would like to take part, please reach out to the contact for your college listed here.

February 2017

Ruba Kenyi“It is hard to imagine my life without the Minnesota State Grant. I am really grateful to receive it and it makes school affordable. I don’t know if I would be getting a college education if did not have the State Grant.”

Ruba Kenyi
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, class of 2018
Rochester native and psychology major

February 2017

College students and their supporters received good news in January when Gov. Mark Dayton proposed an increase in state funding for the State Grant program of $62 million — or 17 percent — in his budget recommendations. A total of $74 million would be available under his budget proposal to expand the size and reach of the program’s awards, when a $12 million unexpended balance is added as well. State Grant awards help more than 1 out of 4 Minnesota students who stay in the state to earn associate and bachelor’s degrees. The awards are made based on need; recipients attend both public and private nonprofit colleges. Increasing funding for the program is the best way Minnesota can target investments in higher ed to the students who most need additional support to succeed.

With the 2017 legislative session underway, the next step is to see how the Republican-led Legislature chooses to prioritize the State Grant program.

Two specific requests for improving the State Grant program have been released by the Minnesota Private College Council:

  1. Make new investments in the Minnesota State Grant program a top priority by investing at least one-third of new higher education funding directly in students through the State Grant program.

  2. Use new investments in the State Grant program to increase awards for students by adjusting the formula used to set the awards to reduce the share that students and families are expected to pay.

Learn more about the Council’s agenda.