Occupational Grant Pilot Program Offers Free Tuition for Qualifying Students

A pilot program available through the Minnesota Office of Higher Education is offering qualifying students entering Northwest Technical College in the fall of 2016 with the opportunity to pursue their college educations tuition-free.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Two-Year Occupational Grant Pilot Program provides financial assistance to students enrolled in qualifying career and technical programs at two-year colleges in Minnesota. The program will help students complete their program within two years or less and find employment in a high-demand occupation. The program was created by the 2015 Minnesota Legislature and will be available as a pilot program for the next two academic years.

The grant will cover actual tuition and general fee costs after federal Pell grants and Minnesota State grants have been applied. Other related costs, such as books, equipment, room and board, or fees for specific courses, are not eligible for the grant.

“This pilot program was designed with two benefits in mind: lower the cost of higher education for middle-income students, and help meet growing workforce needs in high demand areas,” said Larry Pogemiller, Office of Higher Education commissioner. “The pilot will also provide an opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of mentoring as a tool in helping students complete their postsecondary education.”


To qualify for the grants, students must be enrolled in a qualifying certificate, diploma or associate’s degree program at Northwest Technical College, and must have completed high school, an Adult Basic Education program or earned a GED as a Minnesota resident during the 2015-16 academic year. Students who complete certain AmeriCorps service programs in 2015-16 are also eligible, if they started their program immediately out of high school. In addition, qualifying students must come from a household with a 2015 adjusted gross income of $90,000 or less.

Other conditions apply, including participation in a free mentoring service offered through the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. Applicants are encouraged to visit the Office of Higher Education website to review eligibility requirements.

How to Apply

To apply for the program, students must complete the 2016-17 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is available now. Undocumented students should apply using the 2016-17 Minnesota Dream Act state financial aid application. Funding for the program is limited to $3.9 million across all two-year colleges in Minnesota for the 2016-17 academic year. Awards are prioritized by FAFSA filing date, so students are advised to apply as early as possible.

In order to participate in the pilot program, students must receive the grant during the fall semester of 2016. Grants will cover tuition and fees not paid by other federal or state grants each term, including courses taken in the summer of 2017. Program participants who are enrolled in a program that requires more than 30 semester credits to complete – which includes any required developmental courses – must successfully complete at least 30 credits during the 2016-17 academic year in order to renew the grant for 2017-18. Students enrolled in programs shorter than 30 credits must complete those programs during the 2016-17 academic year.

Grants can be continued to a second year if students meet the academic progress requirements, participate in required mentoring programs during the 2016-17 academic year, and maintain a grade-point average of at least 2.5.

Qualifying Programs

NTC has nearly 70 academic programs that are eligible for the program. A complete list of eligible programs is available on the Office of Higher Education website (Excel spreadsheet).

For more information about the MnSCU Two-Year Occupational Grant Pilot Program, please contact the Minnesota Office of Higher Education or the NTC Office of Financial Aid.


  • NTC Office of Financial Aid: (218) 333-6600, finaid@ntcmn.edu
  • Lesa Lawrence, director, Office of Financial Aid; (218) 755-2034, llawrence@bemidjistate.edu
  • Sandy Connolly, director of communications, Minnesota Office of Higher Education: (651) 259-3902, sandy.connolly@state.mn.us


Northwest Technical College, located in northern Minnesota’s lake district, is an open, inviting technological learning organization. For more than 40 years, the college has valued life-long learning and the worth and dignity of all people. The college serves 900 students with a high-quality education, an open-enrollment policy and affordable tuition. NTC offers nearly 60 degree, diploma and certificate programs in areas such as business, health, human and protective services and environmental and industrial technology. Classes are offered on the Bemidji campus, online, or as a combination of both. NTC is a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.