Prioritize cost of education

The Minnesota State Grant program should focus primarily on reducing the cost of tuition.

The Minnesota State Grant program will have a $17.6 million surplus, which will allow it to award students receiving the aid with extra money, the Minnesota Daily reported last week.

Roughly 30 percent of University of Minnesota undergraduates receive the state grant, and student aid will increase on average by about $279 for the 2014-15 academic year.

Ginny Dodds, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education’s financial aid programs manager, told the Daily that because there’s millions of dollars left over, the Office of Higher Education may also make 200 additional students eligible for grants.

State grants, which are awarded to students from lower- and middle-income families, reduce the cost of tuition and promote income diversity in higher education. There are caps on how much students can receive for each type of expense, however, and this year’s cap was $620 less than what the University charges. We support the Office of Higher Education’s proposal to increase the cap so that state aid actually matches the cost of an education.

However, we are less supportive of the approach that Dodds and the Office of Higher Education are taking with regard to living expenses. Dodds told the Daily that, despite a proposal to raise the cap for grants on living expenses from $7,900 to $8,300 per student, state aid “does not yet reach even what the poverty level would be.”

This statement seems to imply that state grants should replace a regular income while a student is in college. Though living expenses are often an issue for college students, we would prefer grant money to be used primarily for reducing the exorbitant cost in tuition, rather than become a vehicle to fund living expenses.