Dennis Olson Reappointed as OHE Commissioner | New Reports on Direct Admissions, Transcript Holds

office of higher education


February 21, 2023

Dennis Olson reappointed as Commissioner of Minnesota Office of Higher Education

Office of Higher Education Commissioner Dennis Olson

The Senate confirmed Dennis Olson’s appointment as Commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education on Feb. 14. The vote came after Olson received unanimous support from the Senate Higher Education Committee.

“Investing in and supporting higher education is critical to Minnesota’s current and future workforce,” said Governor Tim Walz. “Commissioner Olson’s commitment and vision to connecting postsecondary students with the jobs and opportunities of their dreams keeps driving Minnesota forward.”

Under Olson's leadership, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education has launched several successful initiatives, including:

  • The Next Generation Nursing Assistant Initiative, which has provided 2,306 Minnesotans with free training and bolstering the state’s health care workforce;
  • Direct Admissions Minnesota, which seeks to help every student see themselves as college material by proactively notifying high school seniors of private, public, and tribal colleges ready to admit them, and then letting them apply for free; and
  • Minnesota Future Together Grants, which provide tuition-free pathways for students pursing degrees in high-need career areas. Over 4,500 students have received this grant since it began in 2022.

Serving as OHE Commissioner since 2019, Olson looks forward to another four years of breaking down barriers to higher education and advocating for Minnesota students. "From grants that make college more affordable to supports that address food and housing insecurity, we believe every single person in the state deserves access to a postsecondary education," said Olson. "I am honored by this confirmation and look forward to four more years advocating on behalf of Minnesota students.” Read the full press release.

Data and Research: New Published Reports on Direct Admissions, Transcript Holds

Direct Admissions 2023

Minnesota Office of Higher Education researchers recently published its annual report on the Direct Admissions program, an initiative funded by the 2021 Legislature. Direct Admissions was created with the core belief that every student is "college material," and provides admission notification to high school seniors to Minnesota public and private colleges, based on the student's academic performance through their junior year.

The report summarizes the last year of implementation of Direct Admissions, including high school and college participation, student demographics and measures of success. Learn more about Direct Admissions in its pilot year and expectations for growth of the program.

Transcript Holds 2023

Withholding student transcripts for non-payment of an institutional debt is a common practice at postsecondary institutions. However, as a student may require an official transcript to transfer and complete their program or obtain employment, the practice is increasingly criticized as punitive, not financially effective, negatively impacting student success, and disproportionately affecting historically disadvantaged students.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education research team published its annual report on transcript holds, which report summarizes data on institutions using transcript holds as a means of debt collection, the impact of Minnesota’s new law allowing colleges to only withhold official academic transcripts if debt levels exceed $250 under specific situations, and the extent to which financial holds impact the ability of students to persist and complete college. Learn more about how transcript holds at Minnesota institutions are affecting postsecondary students in the annual report.

OHE Summer Enrichment Program seeking new college and organization sponsors

Reads "Seeking new summer camp program sponsors, applications due March 3" with two young students working on a science lab project

The Office of Higher Education is currently accepting new Summer Academic Enrichment Program (SAEP) sponsors for its 2023 summer season. SAEP provides stipends for grade 3-11 low-income Minnesota students to engage in summertime learning by attending academic enrichment camps.

Minnesota’s SAEP aims to counter the disproportionate achievement gap and offer children access to high-quality experiences through summer learning, keeping them engaged in challenging enrichment classes in core curricular areas. Program sponsors must provide primary academic instruction in one of the following: English and language arts, humanities, social studies, science, mathematics, fine arts, performing arts, or world languages and culture.

SAEP Sponsor Timeline: 

  • Interested institutions and organizations must complete Intent to Submit form by Feb. 24
  • Full online application due by March 3
  • Approved SAEP sponsors will be notified in mid-March

Click here to find SAEP application materials and forms on our website.

Ready, Set, FAFSA! Register for Feb. 21 and Feb. 28 sessions

Ready, Set FAFSA graphic! Reads "Join us for virtual financial aid events! Free for MN students and families."

Free Financial Aid Sessions for Students and Families

The Ready, Set, FAFSA! February series is nearly complete! Remember to join for the final two sessions, Feb. 21 and Feb. 28, that will inform families on financial aid offer letters and scholarship tips.

The financial aid webinars are created specifically for students and families to help them prepare for the college-going process. Sessions are approximately one hour long, with a short presentation from financial aid experts, followed by time for questions from the audience. Sessions will have simultaneous interpretation available in Spanish, Somali, and Hmong. Participants who attend at least one session will be eligible to win a $500 scholarship!

Two Sessions Remain:

  • Understanding Your Offer Letter | Tues, Feb. 21 at 7:00 p.m.
  • Scholarship Search | Tues, Feb. 28. at 7:00 p.m.

It's not too late to register and attend tonight's session! Click here to complete webinar registration.


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