Otto Bremer Foundation Sets a Record for the Largest Scholarship Gift for Colleges in MnSCU History

Posted: May 21, 2014

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

Record scholarships, continued tuition freeze make MnSCU education the most affordable in Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn., May 21, 2014 – Higher education is about to get more affordable for thousands of students. Over the past nine months, MnSCU has raised $16.5 million toward scholarships, including the single largest gift for state colleges in the system’s history – a $4 million gift announced today by the Otto Bremer Foundation. Scholarships combined with a tuition freeze that continues for a second academic year will allow Minnesota State Colleges and Universities to continue to be the most affordable higher education option in the state.

The Otto Bremer Finish Line Scholarship Program will provide up to $4 million over two years to colleges in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system located in Bremer Bank communities.

“Keeping education affordable for all Minnesotans is critical,” said Steven Rosenstone, chancellor of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. “Unprecedented in its generosity, the Finish Line Scholarship Program provides significant funding for students traditionally underserved by higher education. More students than ever before will cross the finish line, earn their degree, and continue their journey to a better life for themselves, their families and their communities. We are truly honored to have the opportunity to work together with the Otto Bremer Foundation. They understand the communities we serve and the challenges our students face.”

“Research shows that financial assistance coupled with academic and social supports can help students with the greatest need reach the finish line in their programs,” notes Bremer Foundation trustee Charlotte Johnson. “The goal of the Finish Line scholarships is to improve semester-to-semester persistence and on-time completion of certificate and degree programs by all MnSCU students, especially under-represented students. That success in turn helps pave the way to economic stability for the individual and, in time, entire communities.”

MnSCU Scholarship Campaign also Sets Record

Rosenstone announced that MnSCU’s Access to Excellence scholarship campaign, a collaborative effort of the 42 foundations affiliated with MnSCU colleges and universities, is well ahead of its target. 38% through the two-year, $20 million campaign, MnSCU has raised $12.5 million – fully 63% of the campaign goal. The gift from the Otto Bremer Foundation raises the total to $16.5 million.

“We have made outstanding progress creating new scholarships for students in order to further improve the affordability of a MnSCU education,” said Clarence Hightower, chair of the MnSCU Board of Trustees, “and those efforts have been paying tremendous dividends.” Some recent scholarship grants awarded to MnSCU colleges and universities include the Charles & Ellora Alliss Educational Foundation’s award in the amount of $668,145 to provide need-based scholarships for students at the seven MnSCU state universities; and the Assets for Independence (AFI) program, which awards $1 million to Pell-eligible students at six MnSCU colleges.

Tuition Freeze to Continue in 2014-15

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities froze undergraduate tuition for the 2013-14 academic year and the benefits were immediately felt, especially by students and their families. Under the second year of the freeze, undergraduate tuition rates for 2014-15 academic year will remain at the 2012-13 levels. Graduate tuition rates and student fees will be limited to increases of three percent. “I am very excited that next year’s operating budget keeps the tuition freeze in place for the 2014-15 academic year,” said Rosenstone. “The Board and I are tremendously grateful to the Legislature for approving $52.5 million in state-funded tuition relief that makes this possible.”

Cost of Attendance Actually Lower in 2013-14 for Many Students

Affordability also received a significant boost during the 2012-13 session when the Legislature improved access to the state grant program for working part-time students with financial need. This allowed an estimated 7,700 MnSCU college students and 760 MnSCU university students to receive grants in the 2013-14 academic year. Rosenstone said, “The combination of the tuition freeze and the changes to the state grant program actually lowered the cost of attendance for MnSCU students receiving a state grant in fiscal 2014.”

A comparison of tuition rates at MnSCU colleges and universities to higher education alternatives reveals dramatic differences. “Tuition at the seven MnSCU state universities is nearly one-half that of the University of Minnesota, and one-fifth the cost of private colleges and universities,” said Rosenstone. “Cost of attendance at our 24 colleges is less than one-third the cost of private trade schools. These differences save students tens of thousands of dollars, make higher education far more affordable for all Minnesotans and leave students with dramatically less debt upon graduation.”

About the Otto Bremer Foundation

Created in 1944, the Otto Bremer Foundation assists people in achieving full economic, civic and social participation in and for the betterment of their communities. This mission is based on the intent of founder Otto Bremer. His vision and longstanding commitment to communities during and after the Great Depression are carried forward today through the Foundation’s work in the places that are homes and neighbors to Bremer banks. The Foundation strives to help build healthy, vibrant communities—communities where basic needs are met, mutual regard is prized and opportunities for economic, civic and social participation are within everyone's reach.

The Otto Bremer Foundation owns 92 percent of Bremer Bank and receives an equivalent share of the bank profits that are paid out as dividends. This means that a large portion of bank profit is invested back in local communities through grants and program-related investments.

In 2013, the Foundation provided approximately $38 million in grants and program-related investments.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities include 24 two-year community, technical, and comprehensive colleges and seven state universities serving more than 430,000 students. It is the fifth-largest higher education system of its kind in the United States.