With a shorter than usual Legislative session scheduled in Minnesota this year, members of the Minnesota House of Representatives pre-filed more than 200 bills ahead of the Jan. 28 deadline.
If passed, some of the proposals would force public colleges in the state to price-match textbooks, increase awareness of student loan forgiveness programs and up funding for a program to encourage people from disadvantaged backgrounds to complete a post-secondary education.
Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, co-sponsored two bills and lead-sponsored seven on his own. One of his proposals would require public universities and colleges in the state to provide price-matching policies for textbooks.
The exact logistics of the price-matching policies haven’t been finalized yet, but he said bookstores would have to match a lower price from any competing retailer, whether it be online or a physical bookstore.
Thissen toured several college campuses across Minnesota in the fall and said the cost of textbooks was an issue consistently brought up.
“There’s this monopoly that the college bookstores have,” he said.
Between 2002 and 2013, the price of college textbooks rose 82 percent — more than twice the rate of inflation, according to a recent study by the Government Accountability Office.
Thissen also pre-filed a bill that would help expand the TRiO program, which aims to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds get into college and graduate.
“Because funding has been limited, it’s not serving as many students as it could,” Thissen said.
The measure would put state resources toward expanding the reach of the TRiO program in Minnesota and could possibly include expanding similar programs like College Possible in the future, he said.
Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, pre-filed a bill that would boost awareness of student loan forgiveness programs in the state.
“One thing we could do to help Minnesotans who have student debt is to make sure that they know about [those programs],” she said.
College graduates who enter into certain public service jobs can qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which pays off the remainder of student loans for public service employees who qualify. Murphy’s bill would require public service employers to inform their employees about the program.
“I want to make sure people in Minnesota know about it and take full advantage of it,” Murphy said.