Good news for financial aid and college students
College students and their families will benefit greatly from decisions made in the just-completed 2013 legislative session. The Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton agreed to increase higher education spending by $250 million in the next two-year budget, including increased investments in need-based financial aid through the State Grant program and in direct appropriations to public institutions. The final agreement on the higher education budget was reached late last week and the higher education funding bill is on its way to the governor for his signature.
Widespread support for improving need-based financial aid through the Minnesota State Grant program resulted in a $51 million increase in the program’s funding, a 16% increase. Additional resources made available within the program due to an increase in Pell Grants and revised demand projections, made it possible to expand eligibility beyond that allowed by the $51 million in new funding.
“College students around the state attending all types of institutions will benefit from the state’s commitment to improving financial aid,” said Paul Cerkvenik, president, Minnesota Private College Council. “When it comes to the value of the State Grant program and its impact on families and future prosperity, I’m glad to say that policymakers made great progress for lower- and middle-income students.”
One important change made in the State Grant program is the increase in the four-year tuition cap that had frozen grants for students at the University of Minnesota and private colleges. With the tuition cap being raised by about $2,500, the average grant for students at private nonprofit colleges will increase by almost $700 a year. Read more about why this was a top priority (PDF). Grants will also increase due to an increase in the living and miscellaneous expense allowance that is part of the formula for calculating State Grants.
Many students, alumni and presidents from private colleges spoke out on the issue of improving financial aid this session, through individual meetings, notes, emails and opinion columns that helped educate and persuade legislators and the governor about the importance of financial aid. (To help speak up for financial aid and college students, visit and join Advocates for Minnesota Student Aid.)
In another important development, Minnesota is changing how it supports undocumented students who are pursuing higher education. Legislation was passed and signed into law that allows undocumented immigrant students who meet certain qualifications to pay resident tuition at public postsecondary institutions around the state and to receive State Grant awards.