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Big Ed

2013 Higher Education bill signed into law

For the first time in many years, Minnesota has a positive number in the budget column for higher education. Last Friday, Governor Dayton signed the 2013 Higher Education bill into law, increasing spending on colleges and financial aid by 10%, with over 74% of the $250 million in new spending going directly to students.

Students will realize $203 million in savings as a result of a tuition freeze and an historic increase in state grants.

While the tuition freeze at the U of M and MnSCU is drawing the biggest headlines, the $46 million investment in the Minnesota State Grant and the changes to how award amounts are calculated are significant steps forward.

For instance, for the first time since 2008, the actual cost of tuition at the University of Minnesota will be used to calculate state grant awards. By raising the tuition cap, students at both the U of MN and private colleges will see an increase in their grant award that better reflects their actual costs. The allowance for living expenses has also been increased for every grant recipient, again coming closer to what students are actually paying. (In case youre wondering, tuition increases at MnSCU campuses have always been covered.)

The bill also recognizes that the federal assigned family responsibility for independent students was unrealistic to what they could afford. This budget bill increases their state grants by changing the expected contribution from .65 to .5.

As a result of these changes, over 9,000 additional Minnesota students will receive a state grant and all 102,000 grant recipients should see an increase.

The U will receive nearly $36M for its MnDRIVE research and development program, and MnSCU will receive $17M for faculty retention and $7M for new equipment.

It should be noted that the budgets of public colleges and universities underwent intense scrutiny this session, especially how they relate to record tuition increases. The final bill includes accountability measures for both public systems, requiring them to meet certain performance standards before receiving their entire funding.

Finally, after years of trying, the Minnesota Dream Act was passed, extending in-state tuition and state financial aid to undocumented students who meet necessary requirements. It is estimated that 750 students could qualify over the next biennium, including both undergraduate and graduate.

posted by Sandy Connolly • 5/28/2013 at 2:28 PM


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