Minnesota House DFL leaders, locked in a tough battle to retain their majority, announced a plan to freeze public college and university tuition for two more years, until 2017, following a tuition freeze in 2014 and 2015.
“All Minnesota students deserve the opportunity to go to college and receive a degree – without finding themselves under a mountain of debt,” Speaker Paul Thissen said in a news release.
College-aged voters can be fickle, especially in non-presidential years, so DFL leaders may be expending extra effort to get them to the polls this year.
The plan won’t be free. Earlier this month, the University of Minnesota proposed a tuition freeze, in exchange for $127 million — or 10.6 percent — in extra state funding over the next two years, to pay for the tuition plan and other initiatives.
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities offered its own similar proposal: A tuition freeze in exchange for an extra $142 million.
The House DFL plan would also expand loan forgiveness to graduates working in high demand jobs in rural Minnesota, as well as debt relief to graduates working for ServeMinnesota, the state's AmeriCorps offshoot.
Asked how the freeze would be paid for, House DFL spokesman Michael Howard said legislative leaders are working on determining the cost and a plan to pay for it. "Freezing tuition would certainly be a significant investment, but the objective would be that a tuition freeze would come from a mix of additional state dollars and reduction in administrative costs at" the universities, he said.
Updated, with comments from House DFL spokesman Michael Howard on paying for the proposal.