From the Minnesota Private College Council

Part 1 of a three-part series about financial aid for private college students

Policymakers at various levels, including federal, state and university officials, determine how higher education is financed in the United States. All three entities determine funding amounts to some extent, with some funding going directly to institutions and some directly to students.

The federal government allocates money for Pell grants, which are based solely on student financial need. Universities award grants and scholarships based both on financial need and academic achievement. Families play a role by determining when and how much to save for college.

Finally, state officials — specifically, legislators and the governor — make several key funding decisions. They determine how much money goes into the State Grant Program, the financial aid program for Minnesota residents, and what percentage of total education costs should be paid by students under the state’s "shared responsibility principle."

The Minnesota State Grant Program is a critical part of students’ financial aid packages and helps them to choose the school they want to attend. This academic year, about 1,500 St. Thomas undergraduate students will receive a total of $5 million in Minnesota state grants, or an average of more than $3,300.

There are efforts, year after year, to decrease funding for or even to eliminate the Minnesota State Grant Program. Students, faculty and staff can influence these decisions. You can support this effort by calling, e-mailing or writing your legislators and expressing your support for the Minnesota State Grant Program.

Information will be sent this month to state grant recipients and full-time undergraduate faculty, asking them to contact their legislators. If you need information in the meantime, call Doug Hennes in University Relations, (651) 962-6402.

Tuesday: Read about how financial aid is packaged.