MARCH 2014 Legislative Update

March 2014

With the supplemental budget that the administration released in early March, Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed reinvesting the balance in the State Grant program to increase State Grant awards for thousands of college students. The Minnesota Private College Council (MPCC) supports the governor’s State Grant proposal, and asks legislators to act on it. (See “2014 agenda aims to improve grants.”) 

“Governor Dayton has done the right thing for college students by proposing to improve the awards they receive through the State Grant program,” said Dan Bruss, Bethany Lutheran College president and MPCC chair. “It is important to act now to raise financial aid grants for the academic year that begins in the fall of 2014.”

The State Grant program helps one in four Minnesota college students, whether they attend college part-time or full-time, whether they attend private colleges or public ones.

“This is a very modest proposal” said Paul Cerkvenik, MPCC president. It requires no new money, just reinvesting the small balance that has grown in the program.” “We hope legislators will understand how important it is to increase financial aid grants for college students and how financially prudent this proposal is as well.”

Gov. Dayton’s budget calls for both raising the cap that limits the amount of tuition and fees that are recognized when State Grant awards are calculated, and for improving how students’ living expenses are taken into account. According to the governor’s budget, these changes can be covered through the funds that are already appropriated for the program.

March 2014

Many college students could see their State Grant awards increase by up to $510 under the proposals that the Minnesota Private College Council is supporting this session. Requiring no new money, just the reinvestment of the program’s balance, the agenda calls for two key changes.

  1. Increase fairness for students at four-year institutions. There’s a cap on the level of tuition and fees that is used in calculating students’ State Grant awards; it falls $620 below the tuition and fees at the U of M. That means that grants do not reflect full tuition and fees at all public institutions. We need to “fill the gap in the cap.” Raising this cap would allow for a modest increase of $310 for most recipients at private nonprofit colleges as well as at the U of M.
  2. Improve how State Grant awards address living expenses, helping all students. By adjusting how living expenses are taken into account, the state has made a one-year change that will boost most awards by $200 for the 2014-15 school year. Legislators should make that change permanent.

The agenda is being supported by Gov. Dayton (see “Gov. Dayton leads on financial aid”). Support in the House and Senate will be essential to seeing these changes made this session.

Read more about our agenda, along with stories about students who receive the grants and the impact at different colleges.

March 2014

About 100 students came to the Capitol this week to meet with legislators about the importance of improving State Grant awards. Coming from Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Catherine University and St. Olaf College, the students met in small groups with their hometown legislators.

 Gustavus students

Students are thanking legislators for increasing state spending on higher education, including increased investments in need-based financial aid through the State Grant program. Now is the time to finish what was started — and Gov. Dayton has offered a budget that does just that.

More student visits to the Capitol are planned through April, with hundreds more students expected to make the trip to ask legislators to act now to improve financial aid for college students statewide.

March 2014

Anyone interested in why the State Grant matters has a new place to find answers: YouTube. With the help of students from The College of St. Scholastica, a new video was made this winter that quickly sums up just why the state’s support for low- and middle-income college students makes such a difference. You can find the video on our website or YouTube; pass it on to others who may be interested.