JUNE 2017 Legislative Update

June 2017

The Minnesota Legislature ended its work in late May having passed a higher education bill that will put $36 million of new funding into the State Grant program, which helps one out of four Minnesota college students. And on May 30 Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill into law.

“Policymakers understand the importance of holding open the doors of opportunity for low- and middle-income families to have their children be able to afford to go to college,” said Paul Cerkvenik, president, Minnesota Private College Council. “We certainly saw them act on that belief this session. New funding for the State Grant program will mean larger awards and more eligible students.”

Policymakers have increased the State Grant program’s base funding by 10 percent. That’s a meaningful jump, given all the competing demands on limited state funds. Need-based State Grant awards help students at public and private institutions, whether they are earning associate or bachelor’s degrees.

The new funding targets a part of the formula that is used to calculate awards, reducing the share of expenses that families and students are expected to cover. For students at Minnesota’s private nonprofit colleges, the new investment will mean that the average award will increase by $180 next fall.

In other higher education news, changes made in the new tax law aim to encourage families to save money for college through 529 plans. Contributions made to these college saving plans of up to $3,000 are now tax deductible — in effect lowering a family’s taxable income. Another change tied to 529 plans offers families with incomes below $160,000 who save money for college through a 529 plan with a tax credit, which reduces a family’s tax liability by up to $500. College graduates with qualified education loans will also be helped by the tax law, with new tax credits created that target borrowers with a high debt-to-income ratio.

June 2017

College students and their supporters were definitely heard loud and clear at the Capitol when it comes to the decisions that were made to improve the State Grant program. So for all of you who took time to come to meetings at the Capitol, call your legislators, present testimony, send emails and tweet — thank you!

In late April, for example, 15 student leaders from the Minnesota Association of Private College Students met with key legislators on the higher education conference committee. They spoke up about the importance of the State Grant program at acritical decision-making time in the legislative process. Throughout the session more than 250 students from private nonprofit came to the St. Paul.

Here are a few facts about the ways our advocates made a difference:

  • 209 e-mail messages were sent to legislators and the governor.
  • 260 meetings were held at the Capitol this session between students from nonprofit private colleges and their legislators.
  • 470 hand-written notes from our students who came to the Capitol were dropped off with the governor’s office and legislative leaders.
June 2017

Budget proposals shared by President Donald Trump’s administration raise serious concerns about the future of the federal government’s longstanding efforts to help keep college affordable. The budget information shared in May includes $150 billion in cuts over 10 years to student aid programs. Examples include:

  • the elimination of the $733 million Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, whose recipients are typically low-income;
  • a sizable reduction in funding for the Federal Work-Study program; and
  • changes in loan forgiveness programs that would impact graduate students in particular.

Other higher education changes include cuts in funding for scientific research and cuts in the TRIO college access programs. A summary of these proposals was published recently by Inside Higher Ed.

For the latest on federal financial aid visit studentaidalliance.org — this effort is co-chaired by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.