The North Star Promise Scholarship: Transforming Higher Education Access in Minnesota

The North Star Promise Scholarship program, set to launch in the 2024-2025 academic year, is a groundbreaking initiative that aims to make higher education more accessible and affordable for eligible Minnesota residents. This innovative scholarship program will cover the full cost of tuition and fees at Minnesota’s public postsecondary institutions, including the University of Minnesota system and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, as well as Tribal Colleges, for students whose families have an annual adjusted gross income (AGI) below $80,000.By eliminating the financial barriers to higher education, the North Star Promise Scholarship is poised to have a transformative impact on the lives of thousands of Minnesotans. This comprehensive program is designed to address multiple fronts, including improving college access, reducing student debt, and fostering economic growth within the state.Eligibility and Scholarship AmountsTo be eligible for the North Star Promise Scholarship, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a Minnesota resident
  • Have a family AGI below $80,000 (as reported on the FAFSA or Minnesota Dream Act Application)
  • Be enrolled in a Minnesota public postsecondary institution or Tribal College
  • Not have already attained a baccalaureate degree
  • Be making satisfactory academic progress toward the completion of their program of study

The North Star Promise Scholarship is a “last-dollar” program, meaning it will cover the remaining balance of tuition and fees after all other scholarships, grants, stipends, and tuition waivers have been applied. This ensures that eligible students receive the maximum financial support possible, allowing them to focus on their studies without the burden of tuition costs.During the first three years of the program’s operation (2024-2027), eligible students may also receive a supplementary award of up to 50% of the federal Pell Grant they would receive, subject to available program funding. For the 2023-2024 academic year, the maximum Pell Grant amount is $7,395, so the maximum additional North Star Promise award could be up to $3,697.50.It’s important to note that the North Star Promise Scholarship does not cover the full cost of attendance, which includes expenses such as books, supplies, housing, and food. However, by eliminating the tuition and fees burden, the program aims to make higher education significantly more accessible and affordable for eligible students.Impact and ReachThe North Star Promise Scholarship program is expected to have a significant impact on higher education access and attainment in Minnesota. The state estimates that the program will benefit 15,000 to 20,000 students in its first academic year alone.By making college more affordable, the North Star Promise Scholarship has the potential to increase college enrollment, particularly among underserved and underrepresented populations. This, in turn, can lead to higher graduation rates, reduced student debt, and a more educated workforce, ultimately contributing to the state’s economic growth and prosperity.Moreover, the program’s eligibility criteria, which focus on family income rather than academic performance, aim to create a more equitable and inclusive pathway to higher education. This approach recognizes that financial barriers can be a significant obstacle to college access, regardless of a student’s academic achievements.Application Process and ImplementationThe application process for the North Star Promise Scholarship is designed to be straightforward and accessible. Eligible students simply need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Minnesota Dream Act Application, which will be used to determine their family AGI and eligibility for the program.The Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) will administer the North Star Promise Scholarship program, with an initial appropriation of $117,226,000 in fiscal year 2025 and an established ongoing base appropriation of $49,500,000 per year. This funding will be used to cover the tuition and fees of eligible students, as well as the program’s administrative costs.If the program’s funding is insufficient to provide full awards to all eligible students, the OHE is authorized to adjust the scholarship amounts or the number of scholarships awarded to ensure the program’s sustainability.Frequently Asked QuestionsQ: Who is eligible for the North Star Promise Scholarship?To be eligible for the North Star Promise Scholarship, students must:

  • Be a Minnesota resident
  • Have a family adjusted gross income (AGI) below $80,000 (as reported on the FAFSA or Minnesota Dream Act Application)
  • Be enrolled in a Minnesota public postsecondary institution or Tribal College
  • Not have already attained a baccalaureate degree
  • Be making satisfactory academic progress toward the completion of their program of study

Q: What does the North Star Promise Scholarship cover?The North Star Promise Scholarship is a “last-dollar” program, meaning it will cover the remaining balance of tuition and fees after all other scholarships, grants, stipends, and tuition waivers have been applied. The scholarship does not cover other costs of attendance, such as books, supplies, housing, and food.During the first three years of the program’s operation (2024-2027), eligible students may also receive a supplementary award of up to 50% of the federal Pell Grant they would receive, subject to available program funding.Q: How do I apply for the North Star Promise Scholarship?To apply for the North Star Promise Scholarship, students need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Minnesota Dream Act Application. The financial aid office at the student’s institution will then determine their eligibility and award the North Star Promise Scholarship accordingly.Q: What types of institutions are eligible for the North Star Promise Scholarship?All Minnesota public higher education institutions, including the University of Minnesota system and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, as well as Tribal Colleges, are eligible for the North Star Promise Scholarship program.Q: Is there a limit to the number of credits or years the North Star Promise Scholarship can be used?Students may receive the North Star Promise Scholarship for up to 60 credits towards the completion of an associate degree or certificate program, and for up to 120 credits towards the completion of a baccalaureate degree. The overall maximum number of credits for which a student may receive the scholarship is 120 credits.The Minnesota Office of Higher Education will also set a time frame by which a recipient must complete the degree or certificate program in which they are enrolled.In conclusion, the North Star Promise Scholarship program represents a significant step forward in making higher education more accessible and affordable for eligible Minnesota residents. By eliminating the financial barriers to college, this innovative program has the potential to transform the lives of thousands of students, while also contributing to the state’s economic growth and prosperity. As the program is implemented in the coming years, it will be crucial to monitor its impact and continue to refine and improve the program to ensure it meets the needs of Minnesota’s diverse student population

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