INVER GROVE HEIGHTS – U.S. Congressman John Kline paid a visit to Inver Hills Community College on May 30, for a conversation with college leadership on the financial aid system, college readiness and cybersecurity.
The visit comes on the heels of the U.S. House passing Kline’s Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911), which promises to prevent subsidized Stafford loans from doubling on July 1 and offer a long-term, market-based solution to the student loan issue. Kline is chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee.
“If there are public policies in place that stand in the way of your students succeeding, I want to know about them,” Kline told a group of four from Inver Hills, including President Tim Wynes, Dean of STEM Kevin Gyolai, Foundation Executive Director Gail Morrison and Financial Aid Director Steve Yang. “As we look at higher education legislation in the next year, we know students right now are acquiring debt that they clearly shouldn’t be acquiring. What can we do to keep money from being wasted, and to keep students from borrowing money they can’t pay back?”
Nearly 2,600 Inver Hills students together receive a total of $7 million in federal Pell grants to help them afford tuition, Yang said, and another 2,500 borrow a total of $16 million each year to pay for school. Students often use those loans to help them meet their daily needs, he said, which is in part why the college ramped up its financial literacy programming this year and utilized new tools and resources to help students and their parents understand how paying for college impacts them before, during and after college.
With more changes coming to the federal financial aid system, Yang said both students and the college would benefit from quicker dissemination of new rules and simplified information from the federal government.
“The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a horribly complex system,” Kline said. “We’re determined to help break through that.”
Inver Hills has been an innovator in access and readiness for college, both financially – with the establishment of the FAIM tuition savings plan that provides students with a 3-to-1 match on college savings – and academically, with the highly sought-after Leading and Developing Readiness (LADR) program, which allows high school students in the “academic middle” to take college prep classes and, ultimately, earn college credits in high school.
“Math preparedness is the No. 1 barrier in STEM education to success,” Gyolai said in talking about the new STEM component to the LADR program. “We know that if we can help high school students complete their college math class while in high school – and in many cases, get them 12 college credits by high school graduation – their chance of college success will increase tremendously.”
When the conversation turned to cybersecurity, Kline emphasized the seriousness of the issue and the need for highly trained workers.
“We hear the talk about cybersecurity, and the fact is, everybody is under attack,” Kline said. “Our entire information infrastructure could be taken down in a second. We, as a country, don’t understand how big this cyber war is and how far into it we are.”
Already home to top-performing participants in national cybersecurity competitions, Wynes noted Inver Hills is training students who will be recruited by large corporations to defend against cyber attacks.
Kline followed up his visit to Inver Hills with stops at Dakota County Technical College and Carleton College, and will host a Higher Education Forum at 6:30 p.m. at Simley High School. The congressman was joined on his visit to Inver Hills by Education Policy Counsel and Senior Advisor Amy Jones.
About Inver Hills
Inver Hills is the leader in liberal arts education in the south metro, and is fast-positioning itself as a regional leader in health care education and community-based career programs. Founded in 1970, the college serves diverse populations; actively solicits input from industry advisors; engages students in experiential learning; and addresses head-on Minnesota’s 21st century workforce needs. More than 50 degree and certificate options – including A.A., A.F.A., A.S., A.A.S. and numerous certificates – prepare students for employment upon graduation or permit them to continue their education through transfer to a four-year institution. For more information, visit www.inverhills.edu.