May 2016 newsletter
Find out about new incentives for saving for college passed by the Minnesota Legislature and check out the many ways our colleges are promoting and excelling with STEM. Then dive into some easily-digestible facts about our graduates.
Update: Until the Governor calls a special session of the Legislature, the tax changes passed will not become law.
If you have kids — or are thinking about it — you received some good news from policymakers in St. Paul in the last week. New tax benefits that provide incentives for saving for college through 529 plans were included in the bill that passed by the House and Senate. Gov. Mark Dayton will be reviewing the bill and sounds likely to sign it.
“Some of the headlines about the end of the session are focusing on what didn’t happen,” said Paul Cerkvenik, president, Minnesota Private College Council. “But there were some very critical higher education benefits added to Minnesota’s tax laws — benefits that will help families save for college and that will help students with high student debt burdens.”
Summing up tax changes
Minnesota tax law has left families at a disadvantage compared to those in most other states when it comes to saving for college because Minnesota has been one of a handful of states that do not provide tax incentives for college savings accounts known as “529 plans.” The 529 plans that have grown popular as a vehicle for saving for college will now have two new tax benefits.
- All Minnesota families will be eligible for a tax deduction tied to what they set aside in college savings, meaning that up to $3,000 of savings for joint filers will be exempt from state taxes.
- Many families will also be eligible for a $500 tax credit, which reduces a filers’ tax payment responsibility by that amount. The tax credit will be focused on lower- and middle-income families, with eligibility limited based on income levels.
These two changes are significant, providing more than $15 million in tax relief for those who save for college. The hope is that more Minnesota families will take advantage of this change to make better use of 529 savings plan options. These provisions were championed by Sen. Greg Clausen and Rep. Anna Wills, who were the chief authors of the legislation calling for this change. Tax committee leaders who supported this and incorporated it into the final tax bill included Sen. Rod Skoe, Sen. Ann Rest and Rep. Greg Davids. In recent years the Minnesota Private College Council has been speaking up at the Capitol on behalf of tax changes to encourage increased college savings.
Another important change was made to Minnesota tax law to address college costs through the creation of a tax credit for payment of principal and interest on student loans. This provision of the tax bill helps those who must borrow to pay for college. The focus is on those with high levels of debt and lower incomes, so eligibility will require student debt payments that exceed 10 percent of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income. For these former students who are paying this debt, the tax bill will provide a tax credit of up to $1,000 a year. And for teachers and others in public service jobs, they will qualify for the full benefit with slightly smaller debt burden requirements. Students with graduate education loan debt will be eligible as well.
And in one more college debt-related change, the tax bill removes a penalty that has hit those who have been in income-based student loan repayment plans. These are federal programs to help students with high student debt who have lower incomes. When people participate in these programs, the final amount of debt that has been written off is considered taxable income, triggering a surprisingly large tax bill for many of these borrowers. The bill ensures that this amount will no longer be considered taxable income on the taxpayers state income tax return.
Where else college students came out ahead
When it comes to other positive news for college students, or future ones, three changes rise to the top.
- A small but important investment was made this session in the State Grant program, which provides need-based aid to one out of four college students in Minnesota. Targeting lower- and middle-income students, the majority of these grants help students at the U of M and MnSCU; students at private nonprofit colleges receive them as well.
When a supplemental spending bill was passed last week by both the House and Senate, it included $5 million for higher education, of which $2 million went to improving State Grant awards. These grants could increase by up to $460 next year at the U of M and private nonprofit colleges, given that investment and other changes.
The inclusion of new State Grant funding to help college students wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Sen. Terri Bonoff and Rep. Bud Nornes, who chair the two chambers’ higher education committees. Gov. Dayton will be reviewing the bill when it reaches him for his signature; early indications are that he is likely to be supportive.
- Graduate students with children will have new access to state support for their child care costs if the supplemental spending bill becomes law. The existing state program that has been meeting the needs of lower-income students earning bachelor’s and associate degrees will now be expanded to graduate students.
And new support for advising high school students about college and career options emerged in the K-12 bill that passed both the House and Senate. Legislators set aside $12 million for school districts to hire more social workers, student support staff and school counselors. This proposal was advanced by Sen. Susan Kent and Rep. Alice Hausman; supporters included the Minnesota Association for College Admission Counseling. The provision would help address the fact that Minnesota has had the dubious distinction of spending less of its education money on student support than any other state.
by John Manning
Since 2000, the number of STEM degrees earned has increased 66% in Minnesota — with an overall increase of 49% at our member institutions and at 52% increase in STEM degrees earned by women.
The largest increase for STEM disciplines has been in math and statistics. Minnesota’s private colleges awarded 37% more degrees in math and statistics in 2015 than in 2011. This represents 32% of all degrees earned in the discipline in Minnesota.
Below is a sampling of some of our college’s STEM contributions. For a complete list, view our STEM handout.
Over the last four years, Augsburg College has provided National Science Foundation scholarships to 66 junior and senior STEM majors—of whom 39% began their college career at a community college and 36% are students of color. Each summer, about 60 students engage in on-campus undergraduate research and another 15 conduct research across the country at Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs).
Bethel University currently has faculty researching through four NSF grants in physics and biology. A STEM minor for elementary education majors began this academic year to develop teachers who effectively integrate STEM in to their classrooms. Bethel also annually hosts area elementary, middle and high school students for STEM events such as the Minnesota State Science Olympiad Division C Tournament; GEMS: Girls in Engineering, Math and Science; and class field trips to Bethel’s labs. Bethel students regularly collaborate with faculty in physics, chemistry, biology, math and neuroscience on research projects that have resulted in peer-reviewed publications, student-faculty presentations and awards at regional and national conferences. The research projects are funded by some internal grants, but primarily through external grants.
Carleton College sent more students on to doctoral programs for geosciences and life sciences from 2003 to 2012, as tracked by the National Science Foundation, than any other liberal arts college. Particularly high numbers of students earn doctorate degrees in other scientific fields, as well: among liberal arts colleges, Carleton is second in students going on to earn physical science doctorates and third in students going on to earn math and computer science doctorates. Carleton is also a national leader among all colleges and universities nationwide in producing science PhDs — ranking sixth across all science disciplines and in the Top 10 since 1975.
College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University
The Future Chemists Scholarships and Support (FoCuS) program is a special program for students interested studying chemistry or biochemistry at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. Students accepted into the program receive a scholarship as well as valuable mentoring in their field. They gain academic, leadership and research experiences that help prepare them for careers in chemistry or biochemistry. Incoming students are eligible for this program, which is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Concordia College (Moorhead)
Concordia College dedicates an academic day to Celebration of Student Scholarship. It’s an opportunity for hundreds of students, many from STEM programs, to present their undergraduate research. The college recently created a neuroscience major and a computer science major with data analytics and computing concentrations.
Hamline University has a long history of providing undergraduate STEM students with collaborative research experiences as early as the summer after their first year — with the potential to continue research over multiple years. A $1.1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute helped expand the summer research program to include more students and create a vibrant STEM research community.
Macalester College ranks 15th among all U.S. liberal arts colleges in the percentage of its graduates who later earn science and engineering doctorates, according to the NSF Survey of Doctorates from 2004-2013. Students can start on this path with a collaborative research experience at Macalester. Within the last five years, approximately 130 students per year conducted research over the summer. Five in seven of these students worked in STEM fields.
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
The Saint Mary’s University Fellow at Gundersen, established in 2013, is a partnership between Saint Mary’s and the Gundersen Medical Foundation in La Crosse through which students are immersed each year in research at the Kabara Cancer Research Institute. Students also frequently assist with research at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago.
St. Catherine University
St. Catherine University’s majors in the sciences have grown more than 30% since 2008. Students have the opportunity to engage in undergraduate collaborative research projects with talented faculty and present at local, state and national conferences. St. Kate’s Clare Booth Luce STEM Scholars receive scholarship support and special programs to enhance their education and career prospects. In addition, St. Kate’s offers a STEM minor and certificate for undergraduate education students and graduate programs in STEM and technology for licensed educators and Montessori teachers to enhance their competency and confidence in teaching STEM subjects.
St. Olaf College
St. Olaf College STEM faculty build upon their disciplinary strengths to promote interdisciplinary programs that include neuroscience, mathematical biology, biomolecular science, and environmental studies. Faculty members work collaboratively each summer with 50 to 60 undergraduate researchers and offer an average of 160 academic research experiences during the academic year. Thirty-seven percent of the majors awarded each May are in STEM fields. In addition, St. Olaf seeks to inspire younger students to pursue STEM majors through hosting the Science Olympiad, supporting Upward Bound, and participating in TRIO mentoring.
University of St. Thomas
The University of St. Thomas STEPS (Science, Technology and Engineering Preview Summer) Camp for girls has served more than 3,000 young women over the past 15 years. The weeklong overnight summer camp sponsored by the School of Engineering received the prestigious TEKNE Award from the Minnesota High Tech Association.
It’s the season for lilacs, baseball and college commencements. We’ll skip the first two signs of spring and instead hit on a few things to know about our college graduates — what they’ve studied and what they pursue.
Consider the most recent data we have on our graduates:
- Thirty percent of all bachelor’s degrees earned in Minnesota last year were earned at our colleges. That translates to 10,027 bachelor’s degrees from our 17 nonprofit colleges and universities. (There are 10,444 at the U of M system and 10,950 at the MnSCU state universities.)
- For our graduates who started at and completed their degrees at the same institution, 87 percent do so within four years. This completion rate is the best in the state.
- When you look specifically at graduates of color in Minnesota, 30 percent earn their degrees at our institutions — or 1,519 graduates.
- You can also consider our grads of color as a share of all grads: 16 percent of our graduates are students of color, compared to 17 percent at the U of M system and 15 percent at the MnSCU state universities.
|Top 10 bachelor's degree fields by number of graduates at Minnesota's private colleges|
Bachelor's degree fields
|# of degrees earned||Our % of state total|
|Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services||2,071||33%|
|Health Professions and Related Programs||1,249||37%|
|Biological and Biomedical Sciences||838||33%|
|Visual and Performing Arts||504||31%|
|English Language and Literature/Letters||402||34%|
|Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs||397||27%|
|Physical Sciences (e.g. chemistry, physics)||389||49%|
What they are studying is varied as well:
- The most popular area for our students to find their majors is business-related disciplines, with more than 2,000 degrees in the most recent year. The other top draws for majors are health care, social sciences, biology, psychology, the arts and education.
- Our grads are particularly interested in certain fields. When we look at our grads’ disciplines as a share of all those awarded in the state, that share is higher than our overall 30 percent share of bachelor’s degrees in several areas, including physical sciences, health care, foreign languages, humanities, cultural studies, history and philosophy and religious studies.
And you can look further down the road:
- Within one year of graduation, 84 percent of our most recent grads were employed and 20 percent were pursuing additional education; yes, results are not mutually exclusive and some students are doing both.
- Two-thirds of our most recent grads stay in Minnesota, adding to the workforce and helping fuel our state’s economy.
- Looking four years after commencement, our graduates’ average earnings rank first in the state.
- And more than 277,000 alumni from our institutions live in Minnesota.
And who is helping sending off the current crop of 2016 graduates with good wishes and stirring words? We have a list of who has been delivering commencement addresses at each of our 17 colleges.
More than 277,000 Minnesota private college alums call Minnesota home, and 68% of our most recent graduates — regardless of their home state — stay in Minnesota, adding to the quality of the state’s workforce and tax base.
St. Catherine University announces new president
ReBecca Koenig Roloff, a 1976 alumna and current CEO of the YWCA of Minneapolis, has been named St. Catherine University's 11th President. She will start July 1.
Dr. Colette McCarrick Geary named St. Scholastica’s 12th president
Dr. Colette McCarrick Geary will become the 12th president of The College of St. Scholastica on July 1, after serving as Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at The College of New Rochelle.
Entrepreneurs in training
The Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota has competed the inaugural year of its entrepreneur-in-training program, a unique mentoring and training opportunity for select students.
Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s seniors, graduates earn Fulbright awards
Four seniors and three graduates from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University received Fulbright English Teaching Assistant awards; 20 students or graduates have earned Fulbright awards in the last three years.
Macalester professor’s dinosaur findings published
Macalester College Professor Kristi Curry Rogers’s research, published in Science, sheds the first light on the life of a baby Rapetosaurus.
Construction begins on Concordia College science complex
Construction on the new Concordia College Integrated Science Complex kicked off in April.
Gustavus senior receives Glenn T. Seaborg Award
Gustavus Adolphus College senior Griffin Reed will attend the 2016 Nobel Prize Ceremony in Stockholm after being named the 2016 winner of the Glenn T. Seaborg Science Award.
St. Olaf student wins national music competition
St. Olaf College junior Samuel Viguerie won first place in the string division at the Music Teachers National Association Young Artist Competition in San Antonio, Texas.
Biographer of distinguished Hamline alumna speaks at commencement
Hamline University professor Jennifer Scanlon, biographer of Hamline alumna and civil rights leader Anna Hedgeman ’22, is the 2016 commencement speaker.
Minnesota Private College Week count down
Now is the time for students and families to register for 2016 Minnesota Private College Week, which is about a month away on June 20-24. The event is held at all 17 of our colleges.
July liberal arts conference
The Liberal Arts Illuminated: Pathways, Possibilities, Partnerships conference, hosted by the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, is scheduled for July 11-13. The conference will bring together leadership, faculty and trustees from local and national liberal arts colleges, as well as public policymakers, to discuss the future of liberal arts institutions.
2016 State of Students of Color and American Indian Students report released
Minnesota Education Equity Partnership recently released the 2016 report, which focuses on the education opportunity gaps of Minnesota’s communities of color and American Indian communities. It includes 10 recommendations to help close the equity gap.
"Paying for college" to re-air on public television
The Paying for College program will run at 2:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Jun. 3 on Minnesota public television stations. The program offers advice from local experts on how Minnesota families can finance a four-year college education.
The 2016 undergraduate commencements are wrapping up, but you can still find a list of commencement speakers on our website.
Phillips Scholars honored at April event
Graduating seniors in the Phillips Scholars Program were honored at a luncheon held at St. Catherine University in April. Scholars complete their self-designed service projects to address unmet needs in Minnesota communities during the summer between their junior and senior years; see a list of current scholars. Also recognized were the first three students selected for the Eddie Phillips Scholarship Program for African-American Men.
Here are the five critical skills every new college graduate should have
Washington Post, Apr. 18, 2016
Think about these college questions
St. Cloud Times, Apr. 23, 2016
How mentorship is helping more Latino men earn college degrees
The Atlantic Magazine, Apr. 26, 2016
Most high school seniors aren't college or career ready, says 'Nation's Report Card'
National Public Radio, Apr. 27, 2016
Why Minnesota needs more minority college grads - its economy
Pioneer Press, May 3, 2016