back to top

Minnesota should boost state aid to needy students

They are the faces of Minnesota’s future, Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Al Franken told the nine impressive students assembled around a table at Saint Paul College on Tuesday (4/2/13). They’re high academic achievers, campus leaders, community volunteers — and debtors.

Each of them told a story of financial struggle and resourcefulness in pursuit of their dreams. An undocumented immigrant, in Minnesota since age 3, works nearly full time and scrambles for scholarships because she’s ineligible for government-sponsored financial aid. A daughter of Texas migrant workers started a business to support three generations of family members while she pursues her master’s degree. Several undergrads used advanced placement, International Baccalaureate and the state’s postsecondary option to take college classes at little or no cost while in high school to reduce college costs and shorten their routes to a full-time paycheck.

Despite those efforts, each of them is racking up debts that will run into five figures when their college careers end. A University of Minnesota pharmacy student said six-figure debt is common in her graduate school cohort.

Their drive to achieve is inspiring, Franken said. But so much student debt is “not good for America, and it’s certainly not good for the young people who will be saddled” with it for years to come.