February 22, 2016
ST. PAUL, MN – State Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL – Brooklyn Park) and State Rep. Jon Applebaum (DFL – Minnetonka) are authoring four bills in the 2016 legislative session to help Minnesota families deal with the cost of higher education.
“A college education should be within reach of any Minnesota student with the ambition and drive to pursue it,” said Rep. Hortman. “At a time when we have a projected $1.2 billion surplus, the price of a college education should not be increasing for Minnesota college students and their families.”
“During the 2015 session, we pushed House Republicans on higher education and they failed to deliver for Minnesota families,” Rep. Applebaum added. “In the short 2016 session, providing a tuition freeze and student debt relief should be at the top of our to-do list.”
Representative Hortman announced three bills she is authoring in 2016:
Tuition freeze – The first bill appropriates money to freeze tuition at state universities and the University of Minnesota.
While last year’s budget allowed for a one-year tuition freeze in 2015-2016 at two-year colleges, and a one percent tuition decrease in 2016-2017, it left four-year university students behind. This bill would appropriate $42 million to reduce tuition for four-year state university students. Because of inadequate funding provided by House Republicans, state universities increased their tuition for 2015-2016. This appropriation would reduce tuition for state university students to the 2014-2015 level.
Last year, the University of Minnesota requested $65.2 million to freeze tuition at 2014-2015 levels ($21.7 million for 2016/ $43.5 million for 2017). House Republicans turned down that request. This bill appropriates $43.5 million to reduce tuition for University of Minnesota students and their families to the 2014-2015 rate.
Student Loan Refinancing Program – The second bill appropriates money to OHE (Office of Higher Education) to expand eligibility criteria for its refinancing program. The pilot program OHE just began is not funded to allow OHE to buy down high interest loans for students with poor credit. Since the program is not currently funded, OHE can provide modest relief and mostly helps students who have good credit scores. This appropriation will allow OHE to offer more beneficial rates to students with lower credit scores.
Increase the State Grant – The third bill makes changes to the Assigned Family Responsibility (AFR) portion of the state grant calculation. For students that have an AFR, these changes would increase the amount of their state grant award. The bill also increases the Living and Miscellaneous Expense Allowance (LME) to $9,000 for fiscal year 2017. The LME is currently set at $8828 for 2015-2016 academic year. OHE estimates that the LME will be around $8900 for fiscal year 2017. By increasing the LME to $9000, this bill will increase a state grant award by around $100.
“When DFLers were in charge of the Minnesota House, we froze tuition despite having a $625 million budget deficit,” said Rep. Hortman. “With a $1.2 billion surplus, we should be putting higher education within the reach of more families. There’s no excuse for tuition increases at a time of surplus.”
Rep. Jon Applebaum is also authoring a tax credit proposal:
Student Debt Tax Credit – The fourth bill 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.
“Student debt not only impacts students; it impacts their families and the financial decisions people make,” said Rep. Applebaum. “With massive, lingering debt, Minnesotans are forced to delay starting families and buying homes. Minnesota has the fifth worst average amount of debt per borrower in the nation, and this prevents our state’s economy from growing to its full potential.”
Rep. Hortman encourages community members to contact her on any legislative issue. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at 651-296-4280.
Rep. Applebaum encourages community members to contact him on any legislative issue. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or telephone at 651-296-9934.