Total enrollment projections for the 26 colleges and seven universities in the Minnesota State system show a slight increase to more than 106,000 full-time equivalent students last month. Minnesota State officials say minimal growth is also projected next school year.
“Most of our colleges are experiencing stronger enrollment this year, and we think that’s in part due to the support you have shown,” Chancellor Scott Olson told the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee Monday.
In providing updates on the budget and other issues, he said enrollment is up 2.65% over last fall, the first time in 13 years system enrollment has grown.
The higher education law that took effect July 1 provides the system with $1.87 billion during the 2024-25 biennium, an increase of $331.4 million. That figure includes $289.9 million for operations and maintenance, and $75 million for a tuition freeze for undergraduate degree-granting programs.
“I can tell you unequivocally that your support is valued at every level of our organization,” Roger Moe, chair of the Minnesota State Board of Trustees, told lawmakers. “ … I believe Minnesota State is the best workforce program our state has. Your investment to workforce development along with our commitment to match that investment is critical to growing the state’s economy.”
Because of 2023 funding, tuition is frozen through Spring 2025, a message Minnesota State schools are heavily promoting.
“Affordability for our students especially is something that’s of critical importance. And by making college more affordable you’ve opened the door for more and more students being able to participate,” Olson said, especially when the state has workforce issues.
Other aspects of the higher education law include a direct admissions program and the North Star Promise Scholarship.
Targeting students with a family income under $80,000, per its website, “will create a tuition- and fee-free pathway to higher education for eligible Minnesota residents at eligible institutions as a ‘last-dollar’ program by covering the balance of tuition and fees remaining after other scholarships, grants, stipends and tuition waivers have been applied.” It will take effect next fall.
Paul Shepherd, the Minnesota State interim associate vice chancellor of student affairs and enrollment management, spoke glowingly of how the $6.3 million in student support assistance addresses basic needs insecurity, mental health, and other high-need student support services. He told the committee it does that by increasing the amount of available resources to students at each college, some already in effect, and others that system leaders hope to implement by Fall 2024.
“The investment made in these areas during the last session is already being used to sustain and expand our basic needs and mental health resources currently available for all students at all Minnesota State colleges and universities,” Shepherd said.
He later added: “Systemwide solutions provide an opportunity to leverage the collective strength of the system to enhance resources and support in areas that have been identified by students as high need and most frequently interfere with student success.”
As he did last week with University of Minnesota officials, Rep. Gene Pelowski Jr. (DFL-Winona), the committee chair, said there is no guarantee of supplemental funding in the 2024 legislative session that begins in February — and even if additional dollars are available it’d likely be one-time funding.