ST. PAUL, MN – Today, State Representative Melissa Hortman (DFL – Brooklyn Park) introduced legislation to continue the tuition freeze at state colleges and universities, increase aid to college students, and relieve student debt. Rep. Hortman’s bill (HF 2229) extends tuition freezes at the University of Minnesota and MnSCU campuses.
On Wednesday, Republicans in the Minnesota House passed legislation through the House Higher Education Committee that would result in tuition increases. Despite the state's $1.9 billion surplus, the GOP omnibus higher education bill lacks adequate funding to continue the tuition freezes at the University of Minnesota and MnSCU campuses.
State Rep. Melissa Hortman was critical of the Republican plan to increase debt for students and families. “This bill fails Minnesota students, it fails Minnesota families and fails our state colleges and universities.”
In the most recent budget passed in 2013, House Democrats funded state colleges and universities at a level to allow them to freeze tuition for two years.
“The previous legislature froze tuition despite having to solve a $625 million budget deficit,” said Rep. Hortman. “Now, at a time when we have a $1.9 billion budget surplus, Republicans propose to increase tuition and increase the problem of student debt. This is the wrong path for Minnesota. We should be putting higher education within the reach of more families, not making it more difficult to access.”
“My bill has three components,” said Rep. Hortman. “First, it freezes tuition. The bill freezes tuition by providing Minnesota’s state colleges and universities with 90% of the funding they need to freeze tuition and requiring them to implement efficiencies to cover the remaining 10% of the cost of the freeze. The cost of higher education continues to increase at a rate faster than the rate of inflation, and our state institutions need to become more efficient so that we can keep tuition affordable into the future.”
Second, the Hortman legislation dramatically increases the availability of student aid. The bill would change the qualification requirements for students to receive aid, making the program available to tens of thousands of additional students and families. It also increases the average size of a student’s grant by approximately $1,000.
The third component of the bill attacks the problem of student debt. Students and their families continue to leave higher education institutions with substantial education debt. These significant debt burdens constrain the economic power of recent college graduates to buy homes and to choose to start families, because they cannot afford to make their student loan payments, pay a mortgage, and pay for the cost of daycare.
Rep. Hortman’s alternative provides $10 million to the Office of Higher Education (OHE) to buy down interest rates for students. The funding will allow OHE to pay off high interest loans and offer low interest loans in their place. The bill also provides a refundable tax credit of up to $5,000 for students making student loan payments of up to $5,000 per year. The tax credit begins to phase out for single individuals making $65,000 per year and for married couples filing jointly with adjusted gross income of $130,000 or higher.