State senator introduces college affordability bill

Allison Mueller

Sara Tiradossi / Winonan

In a recent announcement, Minnesota state Sen. Ron Latz introduced the Minnesota College Affordability Act, which is legislation that would guarantee a tuition-free undergraduate public college and university education at the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities for Minnesota high school graduates whose families make less than $125,000 a year.

Latz said in the announcement, “…all Minnesota students should have the opportunity to attend our public universities and pursue their educational goals.”

According to Minnesota state Sen. Jeremy Miller, who represents Winona as part of his district, student debt continues to rise, and providing a student loan tax credit would help students offset the debt.

As part of his involvement, Miller said he has worked on a number of initiatives to help make college more affordable, including Minnesota credit transfer pathways, open-source textbooks and reforms within the Minnesota State central office to save costs.

“Higher education is an important aspect of our community, state and county and I will continue to work together with college students, faculty, staff, administration and community members to ensure high quality higher education opportunities continue in our state,” Miller said.

However, Minnesota Rep. Gene Pelowski explained how support for the bill proposed by Sen. Latz is in the minority. The bill, which would have a big cost, Pelowski said, has an open-ended appropriation that has yet to have a fiscal resolution.

“It is more of a message bill than a real effort to make college affordable,” Pelowski said. “But the message is a good one: that college debt is out of control and college has to be made affordable.”

From 1997-98 and 2013-14, Pelowski chaired the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee, and each time he made record investments in higher education to ensure affordability.

Pelowski said the Republican majority in the Minnesota Senate since the November 2016 elections would also limit budget spending.

By Sara Tiradossi