Dayton proposes work study, financial aid cuts

Dayton’s proposed budget would trim 2,600 work study positions.

Michael Zittlow

While Gov. Mark DaytonâÄôs proposed budget protects the Minnesota State Grant Program, smaller financial aid services stand to receive cuts, including the State Work Study Program.

The largest cut to financial aid services would hit work study, which awards funds to 11,000 students statewide. DaytonâÄôs proposal would reduce the programâÄôs funding by one-third, or $9.76 million.

At the University of Minnesota, about 200 fewer students could receive work study, said Kris Wright, director of student finance.

Last school year, the University awarded more than $7 million in work study âÄìâÄì about $2 million of which came from the state. One-fifth of the stateâÄôs contribution would be cut. Wright said if that happens, departments would likely reduce the number of work study positions they offer.

University junior Brandy Young said her work study job as an America Reads literacy tutor is critical. If Young doesnâÄôt get a work study award next year, she might be in trouble.

“IâÄôd have to apply for more scholarships or take out more loans,” Young said.

Work study is the Minnesota Office of Higher EducationâÄôs second largest program, office Spokeswoman Barb Schlaefer said, and cutting it would be difficult but necessary to protect the robust Minnesota State Grant Program, which provides financial aid to lower- and middle-income students.

“[The Governor] understands that this will be a challenge for many,” Schlaefer said.

Statewide, 2,600 fewer students could earn work study funds.

Although students have an opportunity to earn money from other sources, work study funds are special because they are not considered income on a studentâÄôs Free Application for Federal Student Aid, preventing a loss of financial aid.

Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said he is troubled by the governorâÄôs proposed cut to work study.

“IâÄôve always liked the idea of students working a little bit and getting rewarded for it,” Rukavina said. “To see that 33 percent cut in that program is a little too much for me to absorb.”

Rep. Bruce Vogel, R-Willmar, said while a cut to work study might be cushioned by federal work study funds and outside jobs, students who rely on work study could struggle to find other means of income.

DaytonâÄôs budget would also cut the American Indian Scholarship program by 5 percent, or $200,000. Sixty-four fewer students in 2012-13 could receive the award, and the scholarshipâÄôs waiting list, which includes 500 students, would likely grow.

A program providing students with child care, a college preparation opportunity for students in fourth though 12th grades and funding for libraries also stand to receive cuts from DaytonâÄôs budget proposal for higher education.

Some lawmakers in the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee, which heard the governorâÄôs budget proposal in a meeting Thursday, were skeptical whether the plan would be valid without a revenue increase for higher education.

Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, called the proposalâÄôs language “edu-speak,” fearing that it did not accurately portray the stateâÄôs financial crisis.

“I would hope you would prepare for the worst,” Pelowski said. “If we donâÄôt know how bad it is, how are we going to fix it?”

Dayton failed to live up to his campaign promise of increased funding to higher education, Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, said critically.

Democrats said criticisms of Dayton werenâÄôt warranted after RepublicansâÄô proposed budget bill cut more to higher education than the governorâÄôs plan.

“This is painful,” said Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester. “But itâÄôs not as painful as it could be.”