Bill would help nearly 60,000 Minnesotans attend college without tuition or fees
SAINT PAUL, MN – A bill to create a tuition-free college program for tens of thousands of middle- and low-income Minnesota students passed the Senate Higher Education Committee on Tuesday. The legislation would fund grants for all Minnesota resident students with a family adjusted gross income of $120,000 or less. Prior to the hearing, several DFL Senators spoke in favor of the proposal.
“Our higher education system is in an emergency, but we have an opportunity to turn the ship around and meet the needs of our students,” said bill author and Senate Higher Education Committee chair Senator Omar Fateh (DFL-Minneapolis). “The tuition-free college program would help close opportunity gaps and racial disparities. It would take a step toward solving the enrollment and budgeting crisis we are seeing at colleges and universities across the state. And it would begin to create the highly skilled workforce of the future of the state’s economy.”
“This is really an exciting initiative, said Senator Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis). “Minnesota has a paradox in this moment. So many of our employers and professions are having a hard time finding people to employ. Yet we have so many people who need opportunity, not the least of which are our BIPOC Minnesotans. I can’t imagine a better investment that we could make in our shared prosperity and the economy of our state.”
“We’re at a breaking point here in terms of enrollment,” said Senator Rob Kupec (DFL-Moorhead). “If we do not do something to address declining enrollment, we’re going to have to start talking about which campuses we are going to close in the state. That’s how desperate the situation has become. We need a bold move now to save our Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) system. If we do not protect the infrastructure of higher education, we will lose the next generation of students to other states.”
“In my day job as a college professor, I’ve seen what is happening in our classrooms and what is happening to our institutions,” said Senator Aric Putnam (DFL-St. Cloud). “I’ve seen class sizes balloon and options decrease as the state has actively disinvested in higher education for the past 30 years. It is both our obligation and our opportunity to solve that problem. We have the awareness of that problem, we have the resources, we have the will, and now is the time to do it.”
The bill was passed out of committee on a voice vote and referred to the Senate Finance Committee. A background fact sheet about the bill is attached.