In the final days of the legislative session, the drive to permanently improve State Grant awards for one in four college students in the state ground to a halt. Despite support from the Senate and Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration, the House’s reluctance to support the Governor’s proposal blocked ongoing increases in these need-based grants.
“The voices of hundreds of college students and their supporters did make a difference; legislators were paying attention to the issue, because of what they were hearing from constituents,” said Paul Cerkvenik, president, Minnesota Private College Council. “I am deeply disappointed in the outcome. But I am so grateful for the strong support and leadership on this issue from the Governor and the Senate, including in particular Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Terri Bonoff. The Governor and the Senate responded to the voices of students asking for increases in financial aid.”
In February Gov. Dayton included the State Grant improvements in his budget request to the Legislature. These improvements would have permanently increased State Grant awards by up to $510 for many students. In March the Senate Higher Education Committee included the State Grant improvements in the committee’s budget proposal. Sen. Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), who chairs the committee, was a committed champion for improving State Grants throughout the legislative process. The House budget bill did not include improvements in the State Grant program.
There was hope for positive action this session until its closing days. When final supplemental budget bill was negotiated by the House, Senate, and administration, the State Grant improvements were left out in the end due to House opposition. (It’s important to note that many House members were supportive of these changes, but in the end their views didn’t prevail.)
As a result there will be no permanent increases in State Grant awards for next year. There will be a smaller, temporary increase of $200 to $300 for students, put in place administratively by the Office of Higher Education (OHE). Current law allows OHE to make this kind of temporary increase by adjusting the allowance for student living expenses that is used to determine State Grant awards.