Photo: Mark Zdechlik
Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken heard about the high cost of higher education from college students and administrators during a round table discussion at St. Paul College on Tuesday. The two Democrats said students are graduating with too much debt and that federal and state aid to help people go to college needs to be increased.
The amount of debt college students take on now is a far cry from what it was a generation ago, according to Dayton.
“When I was an aide to then Sen. Walter Mondale in 1975-1976 education was one of my areas of responsibility,” said Dayton. ” And back then federal student financial aid was one-third grants, one-third loans and one-third college work study. Now it’s 2 percent college work study, 18 percent grants for the poorest students, and 80 percent loans, which means for most students and their families it’s loans, loans and more loans.”
Dayton noted that Minnesota student aid programs have not been updated in more than a decade and said the state needs to do a lot of catching up.
The average Minnesota college students graduates with $29,000 in debt, said Franken.
“This is the trend we’re seeing and it’s not good. I don’t think it’s good for America,” said Franken. “It’s certainly not good for young people who are going to be saddled with debt.”
Franken said although federal Pell grants have increased, they are nowhere near as large as they should be. He said he’s pushing legislation that would require clear, standardized financial aid letters to help students better understand what they’re being offered.