Proposed bill could make University of Minnesota tuition free for some

The Minnesota College Affordability Act introduced Tuesday would make tuition free for families who make under $125,000 a year.

University President Eric Kaler presents during a meeting  on  March 12, 2013, at the Minnesota state Capitol.

Daily File Photo

University President Eric Kaler presents during a meeting on March 12, 2013, at the Minnesota state Capitol.

A bill that would make college tuition-free for some Minnesota families was introduced at the Minnesota Legislature on Tuesday.

The Minnesota College Affordability Act, authored by Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, would promise free undergraduate education for high school graduates under an income threshold at the University of Minnesota or schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

The law would make two and four-year college programs free for families making less than $125,000 a year, with the state covering any tuition left after federal and state grants. The program would be paid for through the state’s general fund.

“Our youngest generation shows great promise and ingenuity,” Latz said in a statement. “We should not be hampering their potential with insurmountable debt.”

While Latz said he expects a lot of resistance to the idea — especially from Republicans, who control the Legislature — he said he hopes GOP members will recognize the importance of lowering college tuition.

“You’ve got students who are taking on tens of thousands of dollars of debt to get their education,” he said. “This is all about reducing the financial barrier so that everyone who is capable of handling the work and has the dedication to doing the work will be able to go to college and get a degree.”

Latz said the initiative might take several years to realize but that legislative democrats will continue to work on the idea.

“We’ll have to make the broader case that this is a broader step forward for their constituents,” Latz said. “It’s an important case to make, and I think it’s the job of the Democrats to make that case.”

The bill has been referred to the Senate’s higher education committee.