Students rejoice at ‘life-changing’ plan to cover college tuition for low-income families

Free college tuition program for low-income families

Free college tuition program for low-income families

The Minnesota Legislature is sending a plan that would provide free tuition for low-income students at Minnesota public colleges and universities to the governor’s desk.

The bill would make it so low-income families don’t have to worry about accumulating debt.

Lawmakers said this bill can increase falling enrollment at public universities and strengthen the economy.

“I almost didn’t come to college because I knew I would have to work like this, and I knew that it would be really stressful for years,” said Delaney Zellner, a University of Minnesota sophomore.

When Zellner isn’t hitting the books, she’s punching the clock at work.

“I currently have two jobs and I’m still struggling to, like, pay my rent, pay for food, and I have way too much out in loans right now,” she said.

Zellner said the financial burden hangs over her head daily.

“It’s a big stressor for me,” she said.

But a new law could change that.

Lawmakers passed what’s being called the North Star Promise. It’s a program that gives free tuition to Minnesota students whose families make $80,000 or less per year.

“It would be life-changing for me,” Zellner said.

Students would have to choose a public two- or four-year college, university or tribal college and be in good academic standing to keep the scholarship.

Robert Vischer, University of St. Thomas president, said students should be able to pick from any university.

“I think the best vehicle for doing that is the state grant program because it’s been successful over the years,” he said.

Since it’s a private institution, low-income students would not be eligible to choose St. Thomas for free tuition under the program.

Vischer said the decision could impact student success because private colleges have higher graduation rates for low-income students.

The University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State system would get a state funding increase with this program.

It’s expected to start in the 2024 academic school year.