Free college tuition for families earning less than $80K passes Minnesota Legislature

Public college tuition could soon become free for some Minnesota families.

Senate Democrats passed a biennial higher education budget Wednesday, one day after it passed the House of Representatives. It now awaits Gov. Tim Walz’s signature.

The two-year budget includes $776 million for the Office of Higher Education, $1.9 billion for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, $1.5 billion for the University of Minnesota system and $3.6 million for Mayo Clinic.

Highlighted in the budget is a two-year tuition freeze for students in the Minnesota State system and free tuition for Minnesota students whose parents earn $80,000 or less, a program called the “North Star Promise.”

A $117 million appropriation would kickstart the North Star Promise for the first year, and it’s expected to cost $49.5 million in annual upkeep afterward, the bill states. That money would cover the remainder of tuition after scholarships and federal aid are applied.

The University of Minnesota will also get $10 million over the next two years for campus security upgrades.

Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, called the higher education budget a “game changer” for Minnesota students and families.

“It will ensure that a college education is significantly more affordable and accessible to many more Minnesotans and will increase the diversity of students attending Minnesota colleges,” Dziedzic said in a statement. “This is a historic win for Minnesota students, for families, and for colleges across the state, and it will strengthen our economy for generations to come.”