How Student Debt Became A Crisis In Minnesota

We talk a lot about student loan debt, but how did we get into this mess in the first place?

Almost one million Minnesotans have student loan debt, and one of the contributing factors to this growing crisis is state disinvestment in higher education. As the public policy organization Demos put it in 2014:

Minnesota’s investment in higher education has decreased considerably over the past two decades, and its financial aid programs, though still some of the country’s most expansive, fail to reach many students with financial need. Students and their families now pay — or borrow — much more than they can afford to get a higher education, a trend which will have grave consequences for Minnesota’s future economy.

Per pupil funding in Minnesota has fallen 29 percent since 2008, and 45 percent since 2001. Minnesotans pride ourselves on our high quality education system, but Minnesota’s per pupil funding now ranks 26th in the nation, below the national average.

As you can see, our state has drastically decreased higher education funding over the past decade, going from a peak of $12,346 per student in 1991 to its lowest point in 2013 – $6,533.

Lack of higher education funding leads to increased tuition, pushing the college cost burden onto Minnesota families and students. Minnesota has made a college education increasingly unaffordable; over the past 20 years, average yearly tuition and fees at public four-year institutions have increased by 164 percent and at two-year institutions by 93 percent.

According to Demos:

Tuition prices at both 4- and 2-year intuitions in Minnesota have been generally higher than the national average for the past two decades, a gap which has widened significantly over the past decade in particular.

A highly educated workforce is critical to Minnesota’s future, but too many students and their families are being priced out of higher education. As a result of this decade of disinvestment, students are taking on more debt in order to get the education they need, choosing not to enroll in college due to prohibitive costs, and putting college even more out of reach for Minnesota’s low-income students.