Work-study, child care programs could be reduced

by Emily Johns

State work-study and child care programs will likely be diminished again for the 2004-05 biennium, Higher Education Services Office director Robert Poch told a House committee Monday.

Poch told the Higher Education Finance Committee that Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s budget recommended the child care grant program receive $4.7 million per year in the 2004-05 biennium, as well as $12.4 million for the work-study program.

The programs will likely be reduced, however, because the governor recommended transferring money from these programs to the Minnesota State Grant program if it falls short.

Increased enrollment, tuition hikes and a greater number of people eligible for grants because of the economic downturn have strained the state grant system, the cornerstone of Minnesota’s student aid.

“We are the kind of state that citizens respond to economic downturns by going back to school,” Poch said.

Money for 2003 work-study and child care grants was taken away for the same reason, and the Higher Education Services Office hoped the governor’s budget would restore the programs, Poch said.

“Minnesota has a very distinguished history of maintaining need-based student aid while making cuts in other areas,” Poch said while comparing Minnesota’s grant program to similar programs across the country.

“Every state is responding differently to economic downturn,” he said.

Jack Rayburn of the Higher Education Services Office’s research and program services division said Wisconsin plans to raise tuition $750 per semester at its four-year schools and $500 per semester at its two-year schools – an increase comparable to Minnesota’s projected 15 percent hike.

Cheryl Maplethorpe of the student financial aid department of the Higher Education Services Office said most other states do not have work-study programs.

She said work-study programs’ costs vary depending on a state’s economic environment and the location of its campuses.

Maplethorpe said in a good economy, students are more likely to find off-campus jobs that pay well instead of on-campus jobs.

The governor also recommended the Higher Education Services Office not increase its aid to private schools, even if tuition rises, Poch said.

He said this could bring more students to more affordable public colleges and universities.

The committee also discussed effects tuition increases could have on Minnesota’s reciprocity agreements with other states.

Poch said the Higher Education Services Office requested $4.2 million to cover Minnesota’s current reciprocity agreements, but the governor’s budget allocated $3.6 million.

As long as current enrollment and tuition trends continue, the state should be able to cover its obligation, Poch said.

A bill requiring out-of-state students attending Minnesota schools to pay tuition at least equal to Minnesota’s resident rate is before the Higher Education Finance Committee now, although the panel has not acted on it yet.

Minnesota has reciprocity agreements with Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota, as well as smaller arrangements with Iowa and Manitoba.