House DFLers promise another tuition freeze

In an election year where candidates are promising to make education more affordable, the Minnesota House DFL says it wants to freeze tuition at Minnesota’s public higher education institutions until 2017.

The effort would build on an existing tuition freeze through 2015.

“All Minnesota students deserve the opportunity to go to college and receive a degree – without finding themselves under a mountain of debt,” DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen of Minneapolis said in a statement. “We made positive strides over the past two years, but there is more work to be done.”

Minnesota Republicans need only seven seats to take control of the Minnesota House. So DFL legislators have been talking up their party’s efforts during the last legislative session to help more students go to college without taking on massive debt.

DFL leaders said today they would work to provide more money for higher education and work closely with the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to ensure each system is becoming more efficient in order to better direct state dollars toward tuition stabilization and reduction.

On top of the tuition freeze, House DFL leaders said they would work to expand loan forgiveness for students who take high-demand jobs in rural areas and for students who participate in a program called ServeMinnesota, which gets young people to work in a variety of areas including helping young children learn math and reading.

UPDATE: University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler said he supports the DFL’s efforts.

“We look forward to renewing our partnership with the State of Minnesota to hold tuition flat for Minnesota students and families,” he said.

But Kaler also said that Legislature needs to give the university enough money to make sure students don’t pay more. The school’s most recent budget proposal includes a $22 million per year increase in funding, which administrators say would protect undergraduates from a 3 percent tuition raise and graduate students from a 3.5 percent tuition raise.

“If we do not get sufficient funding to support this freeze, the Board of Regents is prepared to raise tuition, as needed, to fill the gap,” Kaler said.