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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R)

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Thursday, May 11, 2023

ST. PAUL – State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) said a House/Senate Democrat compromise plan that will fund Minnesota’s higher education budget for the next two years is raising eyebrows over a provision that will allow certain Minnesota students to receive “free” college.


Under the Democrat agreement, “free” college tuition will be given to Minnesota students if their family has an adjusted gross income below $80,000.  


“Some will say this idea sounds good on the surface, but once you start investigating the details – or lack thereof – the proposal falls apart very quickly,” Torkelson said.  


Torkelson said the cost to provide “free” tuition to qualifying Minnesota students is $215 million.


Under this provision, students are only required to take 1 credit to receive this benefit, and there is no requirement to work toward a marketable degree or career in need, such as teaching, law enforcement, or health care.  


Unfortunately, according to Torkelson, the “free” tuition plan has left many with questions that cannot or are not being answered.


“Who qualifies when parents have two separate incomes,” Torkelson wondered. “What about kids who have claimed their independence? What about families who move here from another state and establish residency just to claim this freebie? And what of those who choose to work in another state immediately after graduation?”


In addition to the “free” college language, the higher education finance bill also deletes workforce development scholarships which help students who are studying in high-demand fields, and provides “free” menstrual products to students by having them placed in both girls and boys restrooms. Torkelson said this “free” menstrual product program will cost taxpayers an additional than $2 million.


Torkelson said these measures will become law as Governor Walz has said he will sign the higher education funding proposal.