State expects enough funds to cover student aid

For the first time in two years, the state expects to have enough money to cover its portion of aid for needy college students, said the head of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.

Last year the legislature appropriated $154 million to the Minnesota State Grant Program. Officials at the state Office of Higher Education expect to pay out $148 million this year, able to fully fund students' grant awards because of smaller enrollment numbers at Minnesota colleges.

While that's good news, greater demand for financial aid could put more pressure on the fund, said State Senator Larry Pogemiller, the newly appointed head of the Office of Higher Education.

"So much of this depends on what's going on with the economy and what people view as their options," Pogemiller said. "If their option is 'I'm not working. I better go back and get some additional education to be prepared for the job market,' then we'll see a spike in need again."

Pogemiller worries however that the bad economy may push the program into debt. In recent years budget shortfalls have prevented the state from fully funding student financial aid.

"If the economy dips again more people are going to come to higher ed and we'll be significantly short of funding there," he said.

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