Could paid internships keep college grads in outstate Minnesota?
A new bill proposes a tax credit for outstate businesses that would cover 40 percent of the cost of a student intern's wages, up to $1,250. That would give more students the opportunity to connect with companies there, the bill's author argues, and perhaps keep them from flocking to the metro area after graduation.
"Over 70 percent of the students I have in my program end up taking a job somewhere in the Twin Cities," said Rep. King Banaian, an economist at St. Cloud State University. "I know 70 percent of my students didn't come from the Twin Cities."
U.S. census numbers back him up. While greater Minnesota has slightly more people ages 18 to 24 than the metro area, it has far fewer ages 25 to 34, according to an analysis by the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, a group behind the bill.
As an associate professor at Crossroads College, Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, supervises six to 10 internships a year, he said. It's tough to find enough internships for "very good, qualified" students, he said. "And many times when I do find them, they're not paid."
The tax credit would benefit businesses, Benson argued, but it would also help students pay their tuition.
Students are "really excited" about the proposal, said Amanda Bardonner, chair of the Minnesota State University Student Association.
But at a House higher-ed hearing Tuesday, several legislators seemed less excited.
Some questioned the program's $1.25 million price tag. "Where are we going to get this money in this fiscal crisis?" asked Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona. Others asked whether the bill provides enough funding for campuses to cover the cost of running the program. "On local campuses, when we are stretched to the limit ... now we're going to be adding on another burden?" said Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin.
"It's not that it's a bad idea," said Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia. "But good ideas cost money, too."
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168