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University of Minnesota proposes new scholarship program for students at regional campuses

First-year students could receive up to $11,000 in financial aid at the Duluth, Morris, Rochester and Crookston campuses.

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TWIN CITIES — The University of Minnesota asked the state Legislature for $30 million to fund a new scholarship program, giving Minnesota residents enrolled at U of M regional campuses thousands of dollars each year.

During the board of regents meeting March 11, Julie Tonneson, vice president and budget director, and Robert McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, said the New Greater Minnesota Scholarship Program is meant to attract and retain in-state students within the university system beyond their first year.

The new scholarship program excludes the Twin Cities campus, citing a surplus of scholarships already offered. The Twin Cities campus offers scholarship programs like the University of Minnesota Promise, the University of Minnesota Promise Plus and the University of Minnesota Native American Free and Reduced Tuition Program. Other U of M campuses have fewer scholarship programs, administration pointed out.

Students at Duluth, Crookston, Morris and Rochester would receive $4,000-$5,000 in their first year, with $1,000-$2,000 for the remaining three years. Aid is estimated to lower the average debt for Minnesota students by $7,000-$11,000.

“This program would be transformational in helping us meet our goals around enrollment, student debt levels and graduation rates,” Tonneson said to the board of regents.

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In the presentation to the board of regents, Tonneson and McMaster said the new scholarship program is aimed to support 8,500-9,500 students per year when it’s fully phased in based on current enrollment levels at each campus.

Student debt for all U of M campuses averages around $28,000 — a number Tonneson and McMaster wants to lower for middle-and lower-income students.

“The program will help students graduate on time with less debt,” Tonneson said.

Administrators estimated increased enrollment in Duluth, Crookston, Morris and Rochester within one to two years of the program’s launch.

Enrollment at the Duluth campus is expected to increase by 6,126; Morris was projected to see an increase by 882; Rochester by 470; and Crookston by 459.

In total, administrators project an increase in enrollment by 7,937-9,000 across the campuses.

“Such a generous scholarship program would likely retain more students within the state and within the UMN system,” McMaster said.

Abigael Smith graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a double major in journalism and English and a minor in Digital Writing, Literature, and Design.
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