Final Senate Republican higher education budget puts students first, aims to lower college costs, and develops Minnesota’s workforce

Bill caps student tuition, increases financial assistance programs, and seeks cost savings for students

On a broad bipartisan vote of 62-3, the Minnesota State Senate passed the Senate Republican higher education budget that puts the needs of students and families first by boosting scholarship funds, capping student tuition, and bolstering successful programs that meet workforce needs and lead to future employment. The bill is a component of the final balanced budget agreement reached by the legislature and governor and is the first major budget bill of the 2019 session passed by both the House and Senate.

“This final Senate high education budget bill prioritizes Minnesota students by making post-secondary education more affordable, more accessible, and more relevant,” said Senator Paul Anderson (R-Plymouth), chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee and chief-author of the legislation. “We cap student tuition, make significant investments to the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State system, provide funding for scholarships that bring student costs down, and we invest in programs that will help prepare our workforce for the economy of today and tomorrow. By increasing funding and eligibility to the State Grant Program and ramping up the Workforce Scholarship Program, the bill makes it clear that we are committed to helping students access education and training that will prepare them for successful careers.”

The final higher education budget invests over $18 million in the Minnesota State Grant Program, which provides financial assistance to low-income students at all higher education institutions in the state, including private college and universities. The bill also provides for a significant expansion of the Workforce Development Scholarship Program by including additional training programs, adding flexibility to target returning workers, and rewarding campuses leveraging private-sector partnerships to increase scholarship awards. Further, additional grant funding is available to campuses working directly with employers to increase career exposure activities through the Skilled Workforce Partnerships program.

“The innovative Workforce Development Scholarship program incentivizes students to enter academic programs in high-demand industries. This is a win-win because it not only ensures student’s education is relevant, but it also ensures Minnesota has the skilled workforce it will need into the future,” added Senator Anderson. “Ultimately, this results in students finding employment in high-demand, high-paying industries.”

In addition to increasing scholarship access, the bill caps undergraduate student tuition at both the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Systems at the cost of inflation. Further, the legislation aims to reduce college costs through innovative reforms such as the expansion of the “Z-degree program”, which allows students to obtain a college degree without the need to purchase text books. The bill expands the program to three additional Minnesota State colleges, and mandates Minnesota State to issue a report on the possibility of lowering the cost of online tuition.

“At a time when student debt runs the risk of crippling the next generation, our bill holds the line on cost increases,” said Anderson. “Additionally, recognizing increasing collegiate costs are not limited to tuition, we institute innovative reforms that look to reduce all college costs, including textbooks and student fees.”

“Students are at the center of this higher education package – through targeted investments and by asking our public higher education systems to hold the line on tuition increases, we are able to help more students access and afford college,” concluded Anderson. “By targeting funding to students entering in-demand fields and incentivizing campuses to work with employers, we are also ensuring that the education our students receive is relevant to the future of work in Minnesota, in every region of our state.”

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