Council urges targeted higher ed investments
It’s no secret that increasing the number of Minnesotans who earn some form of a college degree has significant returns for the state and the individual. But increasing educational attainment — especially among our low- and middle-income students — requires that we target scarce state resources to make higher education investments where they are most effective. That’s why the Minnesota Private College Council is urging policymakers to expand the impact of the Minnesota State Grant program.
The State Grant program targets students with the greatest need. About 90,000 or one in four undergraduates around the state currently receive these awards. And the need is growing.
The Council calls for four improvements that will help more students succeed in college:
Base financial aid awards on the tuition at the U of M.
For three years the cap on tuition used to calculate grants for four-year institutions has been set below the level of tuition at the U of M. This means that grants for students attending the U of M and MPCC colleges (unlike grants for MnSCU students) are “capped” below the level that takes into account the full tuition level at the U of M. Policymakers should ensure that all students receive aid that fully takes into account public institution tuition costs by raising the four-year tuition cap to the level of tuition at the U of M. In the future, tuition cap levels in the State Grant program should be linked to public school four-year and two-year tuition levels.
- Do more to help middle-class families.
The limited resources currently invested in the program do not allow for significant investment in students from families with incomes between $50,000 and $85,000. In the face of declining middle-class incomes, the State Grant program’s reach should be expanded by enlarging the size of grants to students from these middle-income families and by increasing the number of middle-income families who actually receive grants.
- Improve awards for all State Grant recipients by recognizing the reality of student living expenses.
This element of the State Grant formula, like the tuition cap, has not kept up with rising costs. While it has been set at $7,000 for several years, the true cost of living and miscellaneous expenses for most college students is in the range of $10,000-$12,000 per year. Raising this allowance would improve grants for all State Grant recipients.
- Increase State Grant awards for non-traditional students (age 25 and older).
Our first three recommendations will benefit all students, including nontraditional and part-time students. After addressing these recommendations, if there are available resources, policymakers could increase the State Grant amounts for financially independent students, most of whom are age 25 and older. Many of these students are enrolled in degree-completion programs and receiving retraining for new careers.
Read more about our proposal — and why it is so important for Minnesota’s economy. You can also read the related story “Data makes the case for need-based aid” or view the Council’s recent Research Brief for evidence of the benefits of investing in financial aid.