Bill passes to help students with grants, loans, and scholarships

Most colleges and universities in Minnesota have suspended in-person classes, although some dorms remain open for students who have no other resources. Many students who have work study jobs and receive grants and loans are wondering about the next steps as the end of the school year approaches.

Legislation passed during the brief legislative session this week gives temporary power to the Office of Higher Education Commissioner Dennis Olson to provide resources to college students across Minnesota relating to student work study, grants, and loans to help students weather the financial concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill:

  • Provides temporary emergency powers to the Commissioner of Higher Education to prepare for or respond to a COVID-19 outbreak. The temporary powers allow the Commissioner to waive rules and statutes for the following programs in order to protect the financial stability and academic standing of students:
    • Work Study, allowing students to be paid
    • State Grants
    • SELF Loan programs, ensuring co-signers will not be held liable for unpaid loans now
    • Other state grant, aid, and scholarship programs under Minnesota Statutes 136A
  • Any action taken under this bill which would result in a fiscal impact must be approved by the Legislature
  • Consultation with the chairs and ranking minority members of the Higher Ed committees is required before any action is taken
  • A report is required to be submitted to the Legislature with 30 days of the end of OHE temporary powers
  • The temporary powers are authorized for up to 60 days following the expiration of the declaration of a peacetime public health emergency by the Governor
  • The temporary powers are authorized following any COVID-19-related peacetime public health emergency that is declared before December 31, 2020. It is also retroactive to cover the Governor’s March 13 declaration

The provisions of this bill were worked out with the House, Senate, Office of Higher Education, and Governor Walz’s office.

For any students working non-work study jobs, applying for unemployment benefits depends on certain personal circumstances. Please check the unemployment insurance website for information. If you are taking classes, you must continue to look for work and be willing to rearrange or quit classes if necessary, to accept work. If full-time training is approved, training will be in place of the work search requirement. High school students are not eligible for unemployment benefits. (HF 4531)

Unemployment insurance link: https://uimn.org/applicants/help-support/info-handbook/eligibility.jsp#school

Students and families needing more information should access the OHE website at: https://www.ohe.state.mn.us/mPg.cfm?pageID=2390

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