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'The least we can do:' lawmakers get stranded Argosy students closer to state financial help

Rep. Connie Bernardy comments during floor debate May 9 on HF2849, which would provide financial aid to former students of Argosy University in Eagan, which abruptly closed in March. Photo by Paul Battaglia

The approximately 1,000 students who were left stranded when the Eagan campus of Argosy University closed in March would receive state financial aid and be released from liability for some student loans under a proposal passed 125-0 by the House Thursday.

HF2849 – a bipartisan effort sponsored by Rep. Connie Bernardy (DFL-New Brighton) – would authorize the state’s Office of Higher Education to make direct payments of state financial aid to eligible former Argosy students and release them from liability for any SELF student loans for the spring 2019 semester.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Paul Anderson (R-Plymouth) is the sponsor.

Under the plan, $245,000 in relief would be authorized for distribution to students. The grants would come from existing funds that hadn’t yet been paid to Argosy for disbursement to students, while the loan forgiveness would come from reserves within the SELF loans fund. The state is also seeking to recoup money held for Minnesota students that is in receivership in Ohio Federal Court.

“The company that owned Argosy took grant money intended for students and held it for themselves,” Bernardy said, adding that the attorney general’s office is also investigating.

“Because of business decisions, these hard-working Minnesotans’ lives were abruptly turned upside down,” Bernardy said. “Dental hygienist students came to us who had six weeks of clinicals to go and job offers waiting for them. … Because of this bill, they will have a pathway to their future.”

As for concerns on how it will affect the state budget, Bernardy said: “This money does not come out of the General Fund and doesn’t affect our targets. It’s the least we can do. We will work toward a long-term fix to make sure that this can’t happen again. Let’s not let one company dash the dreams of our students.”

At an April 26 meeting of the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Division, members received more information about what the Office of Higher Education is attempting to do for the students, including linking them up with “teach-out” programs that would help them complete their degrees.

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