How much a Minnesota Dream Act would cost the state in financial aid

Meredith Fergus, State Grant analyst at the state Office of Higher Education, told the Senate higher-education committee at a hearing late yesterday that the State Grant program can afford to take in the estimated 330 or so students who are living illegally in Minnesota and who would qualify for state financial aid. The estimated cost is $539,000, according to the consolidated fiscal note.

The students, along with state Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) and state Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), are pushing for a so-called "Minnesota DREAM Act" that would allow them to get State Grant money, as well as pay instate tuition at institutions such as the University of Minnesota.

Fergus told the committee:

"This is the equivalent of adding two students at every college in Minnesota. It truly is a margin of error that the program can accommodate within its current allocation formula. Furthermore, the $539,000 per year is equivalent to .03 (percent) of the State Grant budget. So we really do have the resources to accommodate it. ... If all these students come in, and if current projections hold, it would likely decrease the amount that each student would get. That average decrease would likely be about $1-2."

Note: The fiscal note does show an additional $100,000 cost in the first year. Fergus told me that's related to administrative costs -- the setting up of a Minnesota financial aid application system.

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