FEBRUARY 2019 Legislative Update

February 2019

The best way Minnesota makes college affordable is through the Minnesota State Grant program — need-based grants that directly help low- and middle-income students pay for college.

The impact of the program is sizable: More than 80,000 students from across the state receive these grants — the equivalent of one out of four college students. And the impact is broad, supporting students at both public universities and private colleges, helping students who are earning certificates, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees.

For students earning bachelor’s degrees, the average State Grant award is $3,961. That makes a meaningful difference, in terms of helping keep college affordable.

Benefits of the program include:

  • Targeting low- and middle-income students,
  • Fostering student choice,
  • Holding down student debt,
  • Helping close affordability and attainment gaps, and
  • Building our future workforce.

For more on the State Grant program, see the Council’s website.

February 2019

Against the backdrop of a labor force that is barely growing, it is clear that our economy needs every worker to be fully prepared. If we are to remain competitive, Minnesota simply cannot afford to waste the potential of anyone in our state. For all of Minnesota to continue to compete economically in the next decades, we must further boost our level of educational attainment.

That’s why Minnesota — like many states around the country — established a statewide postsecondary education attainment goal: by 2025, 70 percent of Minnesotans age 25 to 44 should have some form of postsecondary degree or certificate. We are substantially short of and not on track to meet our attainment goal: today only about 60 percent of Minnesotans have some form of postsecondary credential.

At the same time that Minnesota’s labor force growth is slowing and the economy needs more skilled workers, too many Minnesotans — particularly those from disadvantaged families — are faced with many barriers to achieving their full educational and economic potential.

Minnesota students from lower-income families tend to have lower academic attainment than their classmates from higher-income families, resulting in increased barriers to college access and degree attainment. Nationally, only 11 percent of students from the lowest income quartile and only 20 percent from the second income quartile earn a four-year degree by age 25. In contrast, 58 percent of students from the highest income quartile earn a four-year degree by age 25.

And these students are disproportionately students of color and from families where they are the first to go on to college. Minnesota’s education attainment gaps are among the worst in the nation. These attainment gaps represent a major challenge to preparing students to enter the workforce with the skills necessary to meet the state’s current and future needs. The educational success of all students is essential to meeting Minnesota’s future workforce needs. It’s simply not possible for Minnesota to meet its 70 percent attainment goal without closing these attainment gaps.

percentage of Minnesotans ages 25-44 who have a certificate or higher credential

Minnesota must reduce economic barriers to educational success for lower- and middle-income Minnesotans. When more students succeed, Minnesota will have a stronger economy and stronger communities.

The preceding text is an excerpt from an article by Paul Cerkvenik, president, Minnesota Private College Council; the article ran in The Campus View in January.

February 2019

Inderia Falana“The Minnesota State Grant makes affording Hamline University a possibility for me. As a first generation college student from immigrant parents, I am able to reach for and achieve my full potential for higher education and get me closer to my career goal of working to alleviate the health disparities in this state and across the nation.”

Inderia Falana
Hamline University
Hometown: Andover, Minn.
Major: Public Health Science

You can read more statements from State Grant recipients.

February 2019

While government funding for need-based grants are critical, increases in institutional grants at Minnesota Private Colleges have vastly outpaced growth in state and federal grants. Institutional grants increased by 131 percent between 2006-07 and 2015-16, compared to 71 percent for federal grants and 42 percent for state grants.

institutional grants at Minnesota Private Colleges outpace growth in state and federal grants

Source: Minnesota Private Council analysis of Minnesota Office of Higher Education Report: Financial Aid Awarded to Minnesota Undergraduates (2007 and 2016)

February 2019

With the Legislature in session and a surplus forecast in the state budget, policymakers can help college students by investing in the need-based financial aid that that the state awards through the Minnesota State Grant program. The Minnesota Private College Council recommends an increase of $92 million in funding that would reduce the portion of college costs that students and families who are receiving the grants are expected to pay. The result? Thousands of newly eligible students and larger grants for current grant recipients.

In the coming weeks students from private nonprofit colleges will be coming to the Capitol to meet with legislators and help make the case for this investment. (If you’re a current student it would be great if you would join a group of your fellow students at the Capitol in the coming weeks; you can find out more and register online.)

And as we get closer to key deadlines, the Council will be sharing opportunities for all Advocates for Minnesota Student Aid to speak up as well, including by reaching out to legislators with emails or phone calls.

Meanwhile, to find out more about the Council’s 2019 legislative request and the case for it, here is some background, including the financial aid policy brief.