Proposed bill would limit number of state-funded credits

The bill would reduce the number of credits for which students could receive state funds from 150 to 120 in an effort to increase four-year graduation rates.

by Emily Johns

A bill introduced in the House Higher Education Finance Committee would limit the number of credits students can pay for with state grant money.

The bill, introduced by Rep. William Kuisle, R-Rochester, calls for cutting the number of credits for which students can receive state aid from 150 to 120 credits, the average required for a University degree.

After students have taken 120 credits at the University or any other Minnesota state school, they would no longer be eligible for state grant money.

According to Minnesota statutes, someone taking 15 credits per semester is qualified as a full-time student. The bill, intended to increase graduation rates, is designed to give grant money to students through eight semesters of school instead of the current limit of 10.

“The amount of grants we have going around are getting more and more scarce. This might be one way to get students through the system and hold them accountable,” Kuisle said.

“The University of Minnesota has one of the lowest graduation rates in the Big Ten, if not the lowest,” he said.

Rep. Jeff Anderson, R-Austin, said when he was going to college he had to stay focused on what classes he chose in order to save money and make sure he did not take too long to graduate.

“(The bill) does provide that accountability that requires students to stay focused on the goal. I kept track of my money; we should expect the same from people using state money,” Anderson said.

Committee Chairman Rep. Doug Stang, R-Cold Spring, expressed concern that limiting students’ options to the bare minimum would not allow them to fully experience their educations. Changing majors and taking classes outside one’s major would not necessarily be financially feasible.

“It plays with the flexibility that we allow students to grow and change,” he said.

Missi McLaren, Minnesota State College Student Association president, testified to the committee that credit loads are not always within the control of the students, and they need the flexibility of having 150 credits eligible for state grant money.

In order to be eligible for coverage under their parents’ health insurance, for example, some students need to take a full credit load.

“If your classes aren’t available, sometimes cutting back the credits aren’t an option,” McLaren said.

Kuisle said the bill does not take any money away from the state grant program – it just makes sure the first four years are better funded.

“The money won’t just disappear; it’s still in the state grant program,” Kuisle said.

If the bill passes committee early next week, it will be included in a higher education omnibus bill.

Emily Johns covers politics and welcomes comments at [email protected]