College Promise would give more students a chance at higher education

A bill heard this week in the Higher Education Committee would provide two years of free college tuition to middle income Minnesota students, boost college enrollment and encourage students to finish their degrees. Another bill heard creates a community and technical college grant program for Minnesota residents enrolled in a community or technical college to pay for tuition and fees. This program would phase-in the percentage paid until 100 percent implementation in 10 years.

The College Promise program that would provide grants to eligible students for two years of free tuition at either the U of M or a school that is part of the MinnState system. Eligibility is based on Minnesota residency, credit limits between six and 59 and family income requirements of $125,000 or less for a dependent student and $75,000 or less for an independent student. The grants will cover tuition, fees and course material costs for student, minus any federal Pell grant, state grant or scholarship the student receives.

The College Promise legislation also requires MinnState to create the accelerated study in associate programs at community and technical colleges. The program would help advise students on career planning, transfer options and on-time graduation at a two-year institution.

The states of Tennessee, New York, and Hawaii have implemented College Promise programs. In Tennessee, for example, the program has dramatically increased the number of students enrolling in college after high school.

In 2017, 58,374 students earned high school diplomas, but 41,447 enrolled in higher education institution within 16 months. Studies show that individuals with bachelor’s degrees, no matter the field, earn more over their lifetimes than counterparts with some college ($1.55 million in lifetime earnings) or a high school diploma ($1.30 million lifetime).

The bills were laid over for further discussion while the committee awaits fiscal notes for the legislation. (SF 1308, SF 956)