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U of M expands program for needy students

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- The University of Minnesota said it would greatly expand a program to help needy students with tuition and fees.

Students who meet certain requirements would get four years of free tuition and fees under the updated Founders Opportunity Scholarships program, expected to benefit more than 4,500 students when it's running in full. The estimated cost is about $22 million annually.

Tuition at the university has risen 77 percent in five years, raising concern that needy students and families can't afford it. The elimination of the university's General College has also caused worries that some underprepared and minority students might have difficulty getting in.

The program will help almost all students from families making less than $50,000 a year, said Peter Zetterberg, director of institutional research and reporting. At least 30 percent of the recipients are expected to be students of color; transfers also are eligible.

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"We'll be able to go into a high school or even a junior high with low-income students and explain that if you do well in school, you'll be able to afford this, because we're offering this guarantee," said Zetterberg.

Students have to be Minnesota residents, full-time, and qualify for a Pell Grant, the federal aid to low-income students. The top Pell award is $4,050, and the university will match it.

President Robert Bruininks said the program is important for the school's goal of being one of the world's top public research institutions.

The university's expanded plan comes soon after other institutions in the Twin Cities announced plans to help low-income students.

St. Paul College and Minneapolis Community and Technical College said in January they would cover tuition and fees for at least two years of college for high school seniors in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Metropolitan State University is to join that effort, dubbed "Power of You," in 2007.

United HealthGroup's chief executive, William McGuire, also last month pledged $10 million for aid and scholarships for needy students.

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