Column by Senator Rarick: Higher education budget prioritizes quality education
On Monday, June 21, the Senate passed the state’s biennial higher education budget with overwhelming bipartisan support. The legislation provides for critical investments for the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota state college and university system. The bill is about keeping colleges affordable for students and giving them the support they need to prepare for today’s workforce.
The Senate is committed to ensuring that students who seek a world-class, affordable education can find it right here in Minnesota. We want to prepare our students for future state labor demands and provide them with the tools to succeed so they can become the leaders of tomorrow.
The budget focuses on increasing the affordability of colleges by providing stable funding to public institutions and by making significant investments in direct support to students. The law caps tuition fee increases at a maximum of 3.5% per year. In addition, the agreement provides additional direct support of $ 5.4 million to small campuses in Greater Minnesota to help them meet the needs of their students.
The budget increases grants for low- and middle-income families by $ 26 million by increasing the living allowance and reducing the amount middle-class families have to pay. The budget includes the creation of the Fostering Independence Grant program to ensure that students who were in host families as a teenager can attend university at no cost. Finally, the bill increases funding for various scholarship programs by $ 11 million and requires four additional colleges to implement zero-cost textbook degrees.
The Budget Bill also invests in improving Minnesota’s workforce by increasing funding for the Workforce Development Scholarship program and allowing colleges to target funds to address local labor shortages.
The budget agreed between the Senate and the House also targets students struggling with their mental health, minor emergencies, and food and housing insecurity. The law invests $ 2.5 million in new mental health and basic needs programs. It extends the Hunger-Free Campus designation to all public, private, and tribal colleges in Minnesota and creates a competitive grant to increase access to food for low-income students struggling with food insecurity. Plus, it increases emergency grants to help students overcome minor emergencies without dropping out of school.
Senator Jason Rarick represents District 11 in the Minnesota Senate.