I’m not sure if Malik has yet applied to the U, but I want to tell him clearly and sincerely: We want qualified, hardworking, fully engaged students like him.
Over the past decade, the university has focused on significantly increasing the amount of need-based and merit-based financial aid available to undergraduate students. Systemwide, in the 2011-12 academic year, it provided more than $200 million in gift aid, including $138 million on the Twin Cities campus. Add in student employment, along with low-interest student and parent loans, and annually we distribute half a billion dollars in financial support to our undergraduate students.
One of our signature programs is the $30 million University Promise Scholarship that provides financial support to about 13,500 low- and middle-income Minnesota students. For families with a very low capacity to contribute to their student’s college costs, we offer a combination of Promise, federal Pell Grants and State Grant funds that together basically cover the cost of tuition and fees at the university.
We also offer the President’s Emerging Scholars Program, which assists many first-generation and low-income students. Beyond those many programs of need-based aid, there are also merit scholarships to help support exceptionally talented students like Malik.
Students of color comprised nearly 20 percent of our Twin Cities fall incoming class. Across our entire system in the 2011-12 academic year, 28 percent of our new students were first-generation college students, and of those, 86 percent received financial aid of some sort.
I will also note that, of all the four-year colleges in the state, the University of Minnesota — with our vast array of financial aid programs — has the lowest net cost for families with household incomes of $75,000 or less.
If there is a “reward gap,” we are actively working to close it. Financial aid is available to make a world-class education affordable. It is only in this way that higher education can fulfill its mission to serve as a pathway to success for all students, from all economic backgrounds.
President Eric Kaler, through a new proposed partnership with the state, is pushing for a two-year tuition freeze for all Minnesota-resident undergraduates. This is coupled with his decision last year to hold tuition to its lowest increase in a dozen years.
We want Malik, and other students who look like him, work hard like him — and who earn top grades, score high on college entrance exams, and participate in community service and extracurricular activities — to know that they have earned a place at the University of Minnesota. And when Malik walks onto any of our campuses, we will welcome and proudly support him.
Karen Hanson is the University of Minnesota’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.