Making College More Accessible & Affordable (Higher Education)

With a slim budget target ($500K) for higher education initiatives, the Senate DFL passed a strong Higher Education omnibus bill that will increase supports for students, ensure the Office of Higher Education can work effectively, deliver the best-possible financial aid awards to students, and invest our tax dollars in our students, not in the pockets of corporations.

Fostering Independence Higher Education Grants

The top priority for the DFL in 2024 was to fill a budget gap in the Fostering Independence Higher Education Grants. This financial aid program seeks to eliminate the financial barrier to attending college for Minnesota students who were in the foster care system. For the first time in fourteen years, campuses saw an increase in enrollment. This also meant that more students were eligible for the Fostering Independence Higher Education Grants than anticipated. Recipients of the grants and other advocates worked closely with the Higher Education committee to both share their stories and find a solution to the shortfall. (SF5326)

Kids on Campus and Supports for Pregnant and Parenting Students

Nearly one in four ungraduated students are either pregnant or already parents. New supports, including a designated Navigator on each campus and student accommodations, will reduce barriers to completing their degrees for pregnant and parenting students. An appropriation to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities to participate in the Kids on Campus initiative with the National Head Start Association and the Association of Community College Trustees will increase access to childcare on campus. (SF3806 and SF4003)

Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses

The Higher Education bill included updates to the Campus Sexual Misconduct Policy section of law. Many of the changes were technical in nature or changes made to conform with new federal Title IX guidance. Each institution in Minnesota must update their Campus Sexual Misconduct policies to meet new requirements. (SF1045)

RISE Act

The Respond, Innovate, Succeed and Empower (RISE) Act requires postsecondary institutions to adopt policies for students with disabilities to receive accommodations on campus. Under the new law, securing accommodations will be clearer and more consistent, and less burdensome to students, with simplified documentation and re-evaluation requirements. (SF4525)

Ban the Box

Questions about criminal history on a college application are an enormous barrier to higher education for students with prior convictions. In 2020, the Common Application removed the criminal history question on the common portion of their application. This year, the DFL continued its work “banning the box” by removing the criminal history question from all college and university applications across the state. Safety on campuses remains a priority of the Senate DFL—institutions will be able to inquire into an applicant’s criminal history for certain violent crimes, but only after an offer of admission has been given. This policy will help to increase enrollment and decrease recidivism across Minnesota. (SF4269)

Fresh Start and Prison Education Programs

Some higher education provisions related to incarcerated student loan borrowers and prison education programs were included in the Judiciary and Public Safety omnibus bill. One provision requires the commissioners of higher education and corrections to work together to identify incarcerated student borrowers. If these borrowers have loans that are in default, they may be eligible for the federal Fresh Start program, which allows incarcerated borrowers to enroll in income-driven repayment plans. This will allow some incarcerated persons who were previously unable to take postsecondary classes while incarcerated to take advantage of prison education programs.

Additional changes were made to the prison education program requirements. The Judiciary and Public Safety omnibus also allows for those on supervised release to incorporate postsecondary education into their work requirements. (SF4269)

Online Program Management Companies (OPMs)

OPMs are private, for-profit third-party entities that enter contracts with institutions of higher education to provide bundled products and services to develop, deliver and provide online courses. Their services include recruitment and marketing. OPMs earn revenue through “tuition sharing,” or receiving a portion of the tuition paid by each student who enrolls in an OPM course.

The 2024 Higher Education omnibus created new requirements and restrictions for OPMs, to ensure our students receive high-quality instruction and our faculty retain their intellectual property. The bill banned tuition sharing, prohibited OPMs from owning a faculty member’s intellectual property, limited OPM decision-making authority, and added reporting and marketing requirements.

The Senate DFL recognizes that not all of our institutions are the same, and for some, OPMs provide an important resource. DFL members worked with institutions across the state that have OPM partners to craft language that will allow existing contracts to continue and also provide mechanisms that will protect students and faculty. (SF4340)

Did Not Pass:

Ban on Legacy Admission

A ban on Legacy Admissions or admission based on a family member’s donations to an institution was included in the Senate Higher Education Policy omnibus bill, but did not make it into the final conference committee report. (SF4400)

Senate DFL Media