MARCH 2019 Legislative Update

March 2019

In late February Gov. Tim Walz proposed a state budget that included a $54.2 million investment in new funding for the State Grant program that provides need-based aid to one in four Minnesota college students. The proposal for a 14 percent increase over the program’s base funding is welcome news.

In a Twitter forum in February, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan described the administration’s budget as focused “on investing in students, which is why we are investing . . . in the State Grant program, allowing students to choose the institution that best supports their needs and ambitions.” She also noted the program’s broad impact, including how under their proposal, State Grant awards combined with federal Pell grants cover the cost of tuition and fees for full-time students at Minnesota State colleges and universities for students from families making up to $45,000.

The Walz administration is taking action to make college more affordable, said Mary Hinton, president, College of Saint Benedict, and chair, Minnesota Private College Council. “The positive impact will stretch across the state, benefitting middle- and lower-income students attending both public and private institutions, earning both bachelor’s and associate degrees.”

The proposed investment would increase the number of students receiving the grants by almost 5,000, up from more than 80,000. And the average grant would increase by more than $300.

The administration’s State Grant proposal is important to addressing educational equity, said Paul Cerkvenik, Minnesota Private College Council president. Students of color, Native American students and lower-income students face greater barriers, he said, when it comes to earning college degrees. Cerkvenik noted that Minnesota can help make college more affordable for many who face the greatest financial barriers with this investment.

Statements Hinton and Cerkvenik made after the budget proposal was released are available here. Background on the State Grant is available here.

March 2019

Please share your appreciation with Gov. Tim Walz for his team’s commitment to college students and strengthening need-based aid. His proposed investment in the State Grant program would have a sizable impact, increasing the size of grants and the numbers of students receiving them.

Click here to quickly send a note to Gov. Walz, tailoring a draft message to reflect what you want to say. (And you can tweet about this too — consider using @GovTimWalz and #MNStateGrant.)

March 2019

OHE commissioner Dennis Olson met with private college students during Day at the CapitolHow Minnesota helps low- and middle-income college students is getting some attention with college students themselves speaking up on the issue. They’ve been sharing their views on the State Grant program at the Capitol in testimony at hearings, in small group meetings with legislators and through notes they’re writing legislators.

“I know that support from the State Grant helps me stay in school and will help me graduate on time,” said Viridiana Martinez, a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas, at a hearing held by the Minnesota Senate’s higher education committee in late January. A sophomore at the University of St. Thomas, she’s one of several students who have presented formally at House and Senate higher education committee meetings.

More than 100 students were at the Capitol on Feb. 27 to meet with their legislators on the topic. They took the time to come to St. Paul given how important the State Grant program is to keeping college affordable for low- and middle-income students. More Days at the Capitol are planned for March.

For more on how students are speaking up, see our recent article.

March 2019

Legislation increasing State Grant funding has also been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Paul Anderson, chair of the Senate Higher Education and Policy Committee — and a Concordia College graduate. Senate File 889 would make an even more sizable investment in the program than the administration’s proposal; introduction of the companion bill in the House is expected soon.