Rising student loan debt will only be solved with a comprehensive solution involving student and community action, and legislative change. Minnesota colleges and universities must work to keep tuition levels low, high school graduates must actively seek all financial aid and scholarships, and the Legislature must do everything it can to make college affordable.
The Legislature can do a variety of things to keep the cost of higher education down. One of these is relieving student loan debt by passing legislation that is currently active in St. Paul.
One of these bills, introduced by the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), is titled Opportunity Minnesota. The bill would allow Minnesota residents who attend college in Minnesota or a reciprocity state and receive subsidized student loans to receive a refundable tax credit for the repayment of those loans if they work in Minnesota following graduation.
This is based on a program that passed overwhelmingly in Maine's legislature in 2007 and would remove a critical barrier to low- and middle-income high school students seeking a college education.
By opening doors for students who do not traditionally attend higher education institutions, Minnesota will reap the benefits of a more educated workforce, as well as a larger tax base from the increased income of those individuals.
Our state is at a critical juncture and is facing a serious question: to solve its problems using quick fixes or to seek more sustainable solutions that will result in greater stability and growth.
The Legislature must capitalize on this tremendous opportunity to make college more affordable for Minnesota students, while expanding and stimulating the economy and workforce in our state.
Ryan Kennedy is a University of Minnesota student and board member of Minnesota Public Interest Research Group.