From a tuition freeze at all state colleges and universities, to significant increases in direct financial aid, students across Minnesota are benefitting from historic new investments in higher education. During the last legislative session, Governor Mark Dayton and the DFL Legislature reversed years of of deep cuts, investing $250 million in initiatives to make postsecondary education more accessible and affordable.
College students from across Minnesota gathered today in Bloomington to hear from Governor Dayton about how those new investments are improving Minnesota's higher education system, and preparing middle class Minnesotans for the jobs of tomorrow.
Photo: Governor Dayton spoke to a group of 300 college students from across Minnesota will hear from Governor Mark Dayton about issues affecting higher education, including the Governor's efforts to make college more affordable for Minnesotans. [Click here to download]
"It is clear that Governor Dayton cares about Minnesota students," said Kayley Schoomaker, a student at St. Paul College and Vice President of the Minnesota State College Student Association (MSCSA). "Under Governor Dayton's leadership, Minnesota saw the largest funding increase for higher education in decades. The Governor also helped make changes to the State Grant Program to reduce the inequities faced by working, part-time students at MnSCU schools. That change helped make higher education more affordable for me and 9,000 other part-time MnSCU students."
Kayley was just one of over 300 college students participating today in the MSCSA Leadership Summit in Bloomington. Following Kayley's remarks, Governor Dayton addressed the students, highlighting the new state budget that was enacted this spring, and praising the Legislature's efforts to help more Minnesota students access a high-quality, affordable higher education. Those new investments are crucial in the effort to prepare Minnesota's workforce for the jobs of the future and create economic opportunity for the middle class.
"By 2018, over 70 percent of jobs in Minnesota will require some education beyond high school. But right now, only 40 percent of Minnesotans have post-secondary degrees," said Governor Dayton. "Our state's economic future and the success of Minnesota's middle class depend on the quality and affordability of our higher education system. Given the deep cuts that higher education has sustained in recent years, and the debt our students now face because of those cuts, it has never been more important to make these crucial investments in higher education."
Over the last decade, state financial assistance for students has not kept pace with rising tuition and other increased costs of higher education. During that period, tuition and fees in Minnesota increased by three times the rate of inflation. In fact, before the new budget enacted by Governor Dayton took effect, funding for higher education in real dollars was at its lowest point since FY1980-81. Meanwhile, Minnesota students were taking out loans at one of the highest rates in the nation, with the average graduate leaving school with an estimated $29,800 in student debt.