About a month ago 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.
Today’s huge news is that starting next year, this very valuable type of post-secondary education will be FREE for an estimated 1600 Minnesotans.
If you’re going to access this benefit for your child, 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.
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.”
Is your child a fit for technical school training?
What Stumpf says may well be true, if you’ve got a kid who will thrive in this kind of job. To determine whether your child might be a fit for this kind of specialized technical school career, take the steps I outline here.
The money will be handed out on a first-come first-served basis.
The program is officially called the “MnSCU College Occupational Scholarship,” but don’t let the word “scholarship” throw you. 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. 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.” (Call the technical college nearest you and ask which of their programs qualify.)
4) He or she earns at least 30 program credits by the end of the first academic year (including summer term).
5) He or she 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.
“I’m ready to get in line for this free money right now! How do we apply?”
The MnSCU College Occupational Scholarship program is so new that applications for it aren’t even available yet. “The details are still being worked out,” said Pogemiller. However . . . .
There’s one thing about the application we do know for sure. The first step to applying for this scholarship will be filling out the FAFSA form in January of 2016.
Parents, to ensure that your child is first in line for this scholarship money, I strongly urge you to submit the FAFSA form on the very first day possible, which will be January 1, 2016. Don’t have your taxes done yet at that point? That’s OK; estimate your answers on the FAFSA form using your December 31, 2015 pay stub and then later, when your taxes are done, amend your FAFSA form so that it’s completely accurate.
Why am I adamant about filling out the FAFSA on the very first day possible? Because the scholarship money will be handed out on a first come first serve basis. Mark your calendar now.
Remember, the FAFSA form also gets your child consideration for nine separate federal student-aid programs, over 600 state aid programs, and most of the college-based (institutional) aid available in the United States. I can give you free help with the FAFSA form. Just click here.
There may be additional scholarship application forms required. Here’s how to find them.
Open and read every one of my email newsletters. When any additional forms necessary to apply for this scholarship are made public, my newsletter readers will be among the first to know. To be sure you receive my email newsletter, be sure you’ve filled out the subscription form on this website.
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.”
Mentoring and guidance is available right now.
It’s my hope that the mentoring and guidance that families receive on this website will greatly help students to graduate college debt free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. To be sure you’re benefitting from my guidance to the highest degree possible, click on your child’s age in the “WHAT TO DO WHEN” section of this website, and then make sure that you’re opening and reading my free email newsletter every week.
Please share this post with every family you know who has a child started his or her senior year in the fall of 2015. You never know who might be able to benefit from this great opportunity.
Jeannie Burlowski is a a full-time consultant, author, and conference speaker. She helps parents set their kids up to graduate college or technical school debt free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. You can find Jeannie’s free help for parents in the “WHAT TO DO WHEN” section at JeannieBurlowski.com. Follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.
“We only got around to doing a fraction of what Jeannie tells people to do in the free help on her website, and we saved well over $50,000 on college costs. Our daughter earned a four year degree from an excellent private university at age 20, and she’s now in California happily working her dream job at Disney. Get to one of Jeannie’s live classes if you can. Buy a plane ticket if you have to!” — Liz and Tim Weatherhead, parents, Bloomington, MN
What about you? What are your thoughts about students pursuing technical education instead of traditional four-year college? Comment below — or LIKE Jeannie Burlowski Author on Facebook and let’s talk about it over there.