State Senate bill would provide financial aid to students to study abroad

by Stephanie Kudrle

Students who have trouble paying for studying abroad could soon go overseas on the state’s tab, according to a bill introduced into a State Senate committee Thursday.

Higher Education Budget Division members contemplated subsidizing study abroad grants for financially strapped students, along with funding University projects.

The bill’s author, Sen. Lawrence Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said additional money for students who study abroad would encourage diversity in Minnesota.

He said the state should strive to triple the number of students who study abroad during the next few years.

The bill would provide up to $10,000 for a student who studies overseas for six months to a year and would depend on the student’s financial situation.

Money for the grants would be appropriated from the general fund in 2005 to the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office, meaning taxpayers would foot the bill.

The number of foreign students enrolled in a college or university would determine the number of grants the institution receives.

Pogemiller said he hopes students would pick places where English is not a first language.

“This is not meant to subsidize foreign travel,” he said. “We want to subsidize a student’s education so they can study in a different language.”

Sen. Bob Kierlin, R-Winona, said he was concerned funding study abroad programs might lead to the loss of American scholars and jobs.

“We’ve already lost manufacturing to other countries,” he said. “We could lose some of our service potential.”

Pogemiller said students could develop connections with other countries that might be useful in the future.

Also at the meeting, University officials pushed for $5.1 million to renovate the nearly 100-year old dairy barn on the St. Paul campus.

Jeffrey Klausner, College of Veterinary Medicine dean, said the University would convert the unused barn into classrooms, a computer lab and commons area for students.

“The space we have right now is inadequate,” Klausner said. “We need to replace classrooms that are old and unsafe.”

Funds for the dairy barn were on the University’s capital bonding request this year, Klausner said, but the governor did not fund the project in his proposal.

Second-year veterinary student Carrie Swier said lighting and air quality in the college’s current classrooms is poor.

“We can’t see the blackboard and we spend 8 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.) in those classrooms,” she said. “We need a safer environment.”