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Dennis Olson Reappointed as Commissioner of Minnesota Office of Higher Education



St. Paul, Minn.— Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Dennis Olson’s appointment as Commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. The vote came after Olson received unanimous support from the Senate Higher Education Committee. 

“Investing in and supporting higher education is critical to Minnesota’s current and future workforce,” said Governor Tim Walz. “Commissioner Olson’s commitment and vision to connecting post-secondary students with the jobs and opportunities of their dreams keeps driving Minnesota forward.”

“Commissioner Olson understands that creating a strong higher education system means building pathways to, through, and beyond college and technical education,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “From helping young people from all communities see themselves as potential college students to providing free training to over 2,300 nursing assistants and filling a critical workforce need, I am incredibly grateful that Commissioner Olson is a part of our team.”

“Serving as the commissioner of the Office of Higher Education is the greatest privilege of my career,” Olson said. “Our agency staff work tirelessly every single day to break down barriers to higher education. From grants that make college more affordable to supports that address food and housing insecurity, we believe every single person in the state deserves access to a postsecondary education.  I am honored by this confirmation and look forward to four more years advocating on behalf of Minnesota students.”

Under his leadership, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education has launched several successful initiatives, including:

  • The Next Generation Nursing Assistant Initiative, which has provided 2,306 Minnesotans with free training and bolstering the state’s health care workforce;
  • Direct Admissions Minnesota, which seeks to help every student see themselves as college material by proactively notifying high school seniors of private, public, and tribal colleges ready to admit them, and then letting them apply for free; and
  • Minnesota Future Together Grants, which provide tuition-free pathways for students pursing degrees in high-need career areas. Over 4,500 students have received this grant since it began in 2022.

Olson has served as commissioner since 2019, with Governor Walz reappointing him this year. Olson previously held positions as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, the Director of the Office of Indian Education for the Minnesota Department of Education, and as Commissioner of Education for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. He also worked nearly 10 years in various capacities for the University of Minnesota – Institute on Community Integration.

Olson is an enrolled citizen of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in American Indian studies, sociology, and communications from the University of Minnesota, as well as Master’s in Liberal Studies and a Master’s of Education from the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

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