Higher education omnibus budget bill increases financial aid, freezes tuition

The higher education bill for the FY 2014-15 biennium (Senate File 1236) invests $250 million in additional general fund resources to help the state continue to build a highly educated workforce and make higher education more affordable for Minnesotans.

Financial aid. The final bill increases funding for financial aid to low- and middle-income students through the State Grant Program by $47 million in FY 2014-15. It increases the cap on living expenses and adjusts the share of tuition students and families are required to pay. Some of this financial aid is specifically targeted at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) students.

The agreement also reduces the waiting list for the American Indian Scholarship and funds a summer bridge program to help students transition between high school and college.

MnSCU. The final higher education bill targets affordability at MnSCU, providing $78 million in FY 2014-15 to freeze undergraduate tuition at 2012-13 academic year levels for two years, and also seeks to retain quality faculty. Overall, MnSCU funding increases by $102 million in the FY 2014-15 biennium.

University of Minnesota. The final agreement also makes affordability at the University of Minnesota a priority, providing $43 million to freeze undergraduate tuition at 2012-13 academic year levels for two years, and also invests $36 million for MnDRIVE (a new research and innovation program).

Some investments did not make the final bill. Funding for internships and apprenticeships to help advance workforce competitiveness, as well as an investment in training to target high-demand professions at MnSCU were not funded, and the loan forgiveness program for health care professionals at the University of Minnesota did not receive funds in the final bill.

The final omnibus higher education bill takes some important steps forward in making college affordable and building our future workforce. However, this budget brings the higher education budget back to only FY 2010-11 levels, with no increases to respond to inflation or enrollment growth.

-Caitlin Biegler

About Clark Goldenrod

Clark Goldenrod is the Minnesota Budget Project's policy analyst.
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