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Democratic Legislators Reach Spending Deal to Create Free College Program for Minnesota Residents

Democratic legislative negotiators reached a higher education spending deal May 8 to create a free college tuition program for Minnesota residents, Star Tribune reported.Rep. Gene Pelowski and Sen. Omar FatehRep. Gene Pelowski and Sen. Omar Fateh

The bill – it must still be passed by the state House and Senate – would make it so that residents whose families earn less than $80,000 a year would not have to take on debt to get a degree from a public community college or four-year university in the University of Minnesota or Minnesota State systems or a tribal college.

"We've been seeing declining enrollment on all campuses," said Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Omar Fateh."If we don't do something quick, we're at risk of shutting down some campuses. … I see this bill as an enrollment driver."

The "North Star Promise" would get approximately $117 million in fiscal year 2025, followed by $49.5 million annually. It is meant to cover students’ tuition costs left over after state and federal grants and institutional scholarships.

House Higher Education Committee Chair Gene Pelowski said the program could also help ease the state's labor shortage.

However, Rep. Marion O'Neill, the only Republican on the conference committee that crafted the higher education budget agreement, said everything was done in secret and between the two chairs.


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