ST. PAUL – Students are being greeted by tuition reductions and freezes as they head back to college this fall.
Unfortunately for them and their families, additional assistance in the form of education-based tax relief will not be forthcoming as a result of Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of the 2016 tax reform bill.
This year’s reductions and freezes were made possible by the higher education budget which the Legislature passed in 2015. Tuition will decrease for about 180,000 student enrolled in Minnesota’s two-year state colleges, including Central Lakes College in Brainerd. Tuition also is frozen this year at Minnesota’s four-year state universities.
Funding also was increased for the State Grant Program, which helps students from low- and middle-income families gain access to a college education. Students starting this fall can expect an estimated savings of as much as $600 and more than $52 million in total tuition costs defrayed across Minnesota this biennium.
“A good education is key to becoming a productive member of today’s work force, but it’s an expensive endeavor,” said Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin. “Recent data indicates average student loan debt is over $30,000 for a four-year degree in Minnesota. I am pleased we were able to make some progress holding down costs, but more needs to be done.”
New measures to promote student safety will bring uniform policy in responding to sexual harassment, sexual violence and sexual assault on campuses also are in place this biennium.
Besides lower tuition costs and student safety initiatives there are other forms of education assistance available.
“We made sure to continue student grants, tuition relief, loan forgiveness, and scholarships,” Lueck said. “We also pushed reforms to make it easier for state college students with an associate degrees to enter a bachelor’s program in their field of study, without having to retake courses that would be duplicative to work they had already completed at the associate level.”
Gov. Mark Dayton’s refusal to call a special session to correct a one-word error in the tax reform bill passed this year nixes other important forms of assistance. The veto shot down $110 million in relief for college graduates paying off student loans through a refundable tax credit, up to $1,000, the first of its kind in the country. Dayton’s veto also short circuited $49 million in tax relief for families who contribute to 529 Savings Plans for their children's college education.
The governor’s recent adamant refusal to call a special session means those additional education related tax reform measures will not be implemented and must start the legislative process all over again in the 2017 legislative session.