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Published June 21, 2013, 11:42 AM

More aid coming for part-time MNSCU students

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — More financial aid is coming for part-time, working students in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — More financial aid is coming for part-time, working students in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

The Legislature approved $24 million in new aid for these students, who are often older than traditional full-time students and juggle one or more jobs with coursework to pay the bills. These students are becoming increasingly common at MnSCU schools, the St. Cloud Times reported Friday.

As they had been calculated previously, need-based state grants for part-time students were less than proportional to the aid they would get if they were going to school full time. For instance, a student taking 60 percent of a full-time courseload didn't get 60 percent of the aid they would get as a full-time student. But most of them will now get aid proportionate to what they would get as a full-timer.

Nearly half of MnSCU's students, or 49.5 percent, were enrolled part-time in 2012, an increase from 42.6 percent in 2004.

Chaz James, a 26-year-old architectural construction technology student at St. Cloud Technical & Community College, said he didn't realize his state grant award would drop off so sharply when he shifted to part-time status this spring. Between working three jobs, raising two kids and taking college courses, his plate was overflowing last semester.

"I filled out a time schedule to figure out when I would sleep," James said.

James likely won't benefit from the changes this fall because he plans to be back in school full time again. But he's glad in case he ever needs to go back to part-time status.

"I now know that support is there if I need it," James said.

An additional group of nearly 8,000 part-time students who weren't previously eligible for state grants also are projected to become eligible under the changes enacted last month as part of the state's next higher-education budget. The changes were implemented as a two-year pilot only for students in the MnSCU system's two-year and four-year colleges. It will be up to lawmakers in 2015, when the state's next two-year budget is crafted, to decide whether to extend them.

The fact that the pilot is limited to MnSCU students rankled some, because state grants also go to students at the separate University of Minnesota system and at private colleges and universities. But supporters of the move say an overwhelming majority of Minnesota's part-time, working students are in MnSCU. Most of them attend two-year colleges.

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