In 2015 I wrote about how some students could end up wealthier and happier by not going to four-year college after high school. It was a life-changing post for many. If you missed it, be sure to read it here.
But what about this great idea? Your kid could go to community or technical school in a fantastic, in-demand career field for two years and gain excellent, immediately-employable job skills . . . and then start work on a bachelors degree in a related field at age 20.
“Wait, a minute . . .” I can hear you objecting. “Who wants to go to college for six straight years, and not get finished until age 24? The credits my kid would earn in technical school probably wouldn’t transfer to a four-year college, right?”
You’re right, college credits don’t generally transfer from technical schools to 4-year bachelors degree programs. But imagine this. What if your 18-year-old teen had already completed two full years of bachelors degree college credit in high school at state expense — as I explain in this webinar? That teen could complete two years of technical school between age 18 and age 20, and then finish up a bachelors degree between the ages of 20 and 22.
But wait — the news gets even better!
If your child graduated from a Minnesota high school in 2016, the very valuable technical school education I’m talking about may be FREE for him or her — even if your family income is well above average.
If you’re going to help your child access this benefit, though, there are several things you need to know right now.
It’s true! Free technical school for 1600 Minnesotans!
Starting in 2016, Minnesota is embarking on a two-year pilot program where the state will pay tuition and fees for 1600 recent high school grads who enroll in job-skills training programs at public two-year colleges and pursue high-demand technical training in fields such as agriculture, manufacturing, and computer science and others. (For a complete list of programs the state of Minnesota will be paying for, click here. It’s a fantastic, exciting list.)
Hot fields with high levels of future employability
Jobs in these fields “are very, very hot right now,” said Minnesota State Senator LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, who was the lead sponsor of the Minnesota bill that provided $8.5 million for the program. “Nobody can get enough employees.”
Stumpf continues. “We push so hard as parents to get our children to have a four-year college degree. But now, in today’s economy . . . it (might) be better for them (the students) to have skills training.”
The technical school tuition money will be handed out on a first-come first-served basis.
The program is officially called the “MnSCU College Occupational Grant.”
It’s not called a “scholarship” because there won’t be a lot of tough competition for the money. Instead, the funds will be awarded on a first-come first-served basis.
You can have a high income and still benefit.
Receiving the funds isn’t dependent on the student’s degree of financial need either. Students whose families make up to $90,000 per year can still benefit from this program. (Look below for how this $90,000 benchmark is calculated.) How is this fair? Well, Minnesota’s Commissioner of Higher Education Larry Pogemiller says that “very low-income students already can go to community college for free, because they qualify for federal and state grants to cover tuition and fees.” Essentially, lower-income Minnesotans are already taken care of in other ways.
Your child may qualify for this program if he or she meets all of the following 5 criteria:
1) He or she completes one of the following between January and September of 2016:
- graduates from a Minnesota high school or
- passes a GED exam or
- completes an ABE program or
- finishes an approved AmeriCorps program that he or she started right after graduating from high school.
2) You and your child are Minnesota state residents and your family has an adjusted gross income of $90,000 or less. (If the child’s biological parents are divorced or were never married, count only the income of the parent that the child lived with the most during 2015.)
3) Your child is willing to start at a 2-year college in the fall of 2016 and “pursue a certificate, diploma, AS, or AAS degree in a program that is covered by the federal Perkins Act and is in a Minnesota DEED designated high demand occupational field.” (For a complete list of programs the state of Minnesota will be paying for, click here. You can also call the Minnesota community/technical college nearest you and ask which of their programs qualify.)
4) Your child is willing and able to earn at least 30 program credits by the end of the first academic year (including summer term).
5) Your child makes satisfactory academic progress with a grade point average of 2.5 after the first academic year and at the end of each academic term thereafter.
All technical school costs are covered by this program, with this exception:
Course-specific fees such as flight instruction, lab fees, and toolkits must be purchased by the student.
“I’m ready to get in line for this free money right now! How do we apply?”
Apply by filling out the FAFSA form as soon as possible. Hurry; time is of the essence because — as I said — the “MnSCU College Occupational Grant” money is being handed out on a first-come-first-served basis.
Fill out the FAFSA, and then call the community/technical college nearest your Minnesota home and ask to see a list of programs they have that can be paid for with “MnSCU College Occupational Grant” money.
And don’t worry — if you fill out the FAFSA form and your daughter decides next July that she actually wants to attend a traditional 4-year college instead, the FAFSA form will also get her consideration for nine separate federal student-aid programs, over 600 state aid programs, and most of the 4-year college-based (institutional) aid available in the United States.
To get official information on the MnSCU College Occupational Grant* straight from the State of Minnesota, click here.
Besides the money, there’s a secondary benefit to this scholarship.
One added benefit of this program is that each scholarship recipient will be assigned a mentor who will “work with participating students to encourage them to stay in school and earn their degrees.” Pogemiller told reporters that this would likely be one of the most powerful parts of the program. “All the research indicates that if you’re able to help some of these students through mentoring or just guidance . . . you can help make them successful.”
* The state of Minnesota requests that I inform you that “funding for the program is $3,993,000 for the 2016-2017 academic year. The second year of the pilot (2017-2018 academic year) is the first fiscal year in the next two-year state budget cycle, so funding has not yet been established for that year. An appropriation for 2017 – 2018 was mentioned in this year’s bill, but the legislature can’t technically fund the program until they pass an appropriations bill during the 2017 legislative session.”
What about you? What are your thoughts about students pursuing technical education instead of or in addition to traditional four-year college? Comment below — or LIKE Jeannie Burlowski Author on Facebook and let’s talk about it there.
For more in-depth help getting kids 12-22 through college debt-free, get your copy of:
You can use the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon.com to read the first 128 pages of LAUNCH for free by going to:
(Tell your friends.)
Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1-3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.
And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it – especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.
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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full time author, academic consultant, and speaker. She helps parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. She also helps students apply to medical school at her website GetIntoMedSchool.com. You can follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.