Legislative Update – January 30, 2015

Yesterday at the Capitol

The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee met yesterday to hear from the Office of Higher Education about Governor Mark Dayton’s higher education budget recommendations. Commissioner Larry Pogemiller told members that the Governor is not making a funding recommendation at this time for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, but is hopeful current efforts underway by the Board of Trustees and faculty groups to get Charting the Future back on track are fruitful.

Commissioner Pogemiller walked committee members through the Governor’s State Grant recommendations. He categorized the recommendations into two areas. The first he defined as basic maintenance, which utilizes the current spending balance by increasing the LME, or living and miscellaneous expense account to the federal poverty level. Current law sets the LME at $7,900; the proposed increase would bring the LME to $8,858 in fiscal year 2016 and $8,958 in fiscal year 2017. The Governor is also proposing to increase the tuition and fee maximums within the State Grant program by raising the cap on four-year colleges from $13,000 to $13,620. Pogemiller said the basic maintenance changes are intended to hold down the need for borrowing.

The second category Pogemiller spoke about is characterized as “enhancements” and is intended to focus on low-wage working adults and middle-income families. The Governor’s recommendation would lower the assigned family responsibility, or AFR. The proposal lowers the AFR for independent students and parents of dependent students. The other area is a fill-in for the Pell Grant, which allows the State Grant to fill in for unawarded Pell Grants within the grant program to help critically underserved students receive assistance to pay for their education.

Committee Chair Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, said it is her belief that higher education is more important than ever, and she said she would have liked to see more emphasis in the Governor’s budget around student completion.

Minnesota Management and Budget is expected to release the February forecast that fine tunes the earlier forecast from November on Feb. 27. After the forecast is released, Gov. Dayton will release his supplemental budget recommendation.

The Office of Higher Education also spoke about two reports the office was required to prepare; the report on part-time enrollment pilot program grant for MnSCU students and the institutional metrics report. Commissioner Pogemiller said the $24 million spent on this pilot went to students who needed the funds, but the Governor believes the money should be distributed differently to make more meaningful change for independent students.

The pilot program delivered additional grants to approximately 27,500 MnSCU students in fiscal year 2014, with the average annual increase from the part-time grant of $430, a 52 percent increase for grant recipients.

Senator Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, was interested in hearing more about how students found out about this program so that part-time students could take advantage of the pilot. Senator Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, said the committee was most concerned when passing this pilot legislation two years ago, about incenting people to attend part-time instead of not going to college at all. Senator Kathy Shearn, DFL-Mankato, said there was merit in the pilot program, but went on to say that the LME would be an equitable place to focus funds for students.

Committee members discussed retention of students, and Chair Bonoff said it was the Senate’s intention to allow more students access to the State Grant program. Commissioner Pogemiller told members that MnSCU is faced with a large task of increasing retention and completion rates, because the colleges and universities are open access institutions and serve all of Minnesota. Pogemiller said if the Legislature wants to see improvement in retention and completion, the Legislature should invest the majority of higher education funding in MnSCU. He said that the uniqueness of MnSCU is extremely important to the state, and helping MnSCU meet student challenges is imperative.

The other report, institutional metrics, was a report mandated to the Office of Higher Education in 2013 to identify criteria to determine institutional eligibility in state financial aid programs. According to the report, the Legislative intent is to “ensure that institutions participating in state aid programs are providing students with a quality postsecondary education.” Chair Bonoff posed the question, should the Legislature put metrics in place that informs institutions there will be consequences if they don’t meet them. Meredith Fergus, Manager for Financial Aid Research/SLEDS Coordinator at the Office of Higher Education said the recommended metrics to identify high and low performing institutions include access, affordability and student success. After a brief discussion, Chair Bonoff said the committee will have to decide what action they want to take based on the report’s recommendation. The report is attached for your review.

Today at the Capitol

There are no higher education related committee hearings, or floor sessions scheduled for today.

 Looking Ahead

Monday, February 2
10:15 a.m.
House Ways and Means
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Jim Knoblach
Agenda: Minnesota Management & Budget: Presentation of Governor Dayton’s proposed $42.175 billion General Fund / $77.239 billion All Funds budget for the FY2016-17 biennium.

11:00 a.m.
Senate in Session

2:00 p.m.
Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development

Room: 112 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Dan Sparks
Greater MN Partnership – Rural Economic Development Proposals
S.F. 5-Bonoff: Workforce development; employees dual training competency grants program development and appropriation

3:30 p.m.
House in Session

Tuesday, February 3

8:15 a.m.

House State Government Finance
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Sarah Anderson
Agenda: Remarks on state insurance plans
Introduction from Minnesota Management and Budget: Myron Frans, Commissioner; Scott Anderson, State Program Administration Manager

10:15 a.m.
House Agriculture Finance
Room: 5 State Office building
Chair: Rep. Rod Hamilton
Agenda: Minnesota Department of Agriculture report on the Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation (AGRI) program.
Minnesota Department of Agriculture report on the NextGen Energy Board activities.

2:00 p.m.
Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development

Room: 107 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Terri E. Bonoff
Minnesota Office of Higher Education – Various Overviews & Updates on
Programs related to Higher Education in Minnesota
-Greater Minnesota Internship Program
-Statewide Longitudinal Education Data System (SLEDS)
-Creating a SELF Loan Refinance Program Report
-Barriers to Completion Report
-Study Abroad Report

2:45 p.m.
House Higher Education Policy and Finance
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Bud Nornes
Agenda: Overview from the Office of Higher Education on the Governor’s Budget

2:45 p.m.
House Health and Human Services Reform
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Tara Mack
Agenda: HF211 (Kiel) Rural mental health professionals, public health nurses, dental therapists, and advanced dental therapists added to the health professional education loan forgiveness program and money appropriated.

Thursday, February 5

8:15 a.m.
House Education Innovation Policy
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Sondra Erickson
Agenda: Presentations on career and technical education.

Tuesday, February 10
4:00 p.m.
Joint Meeting: Committee on Higher Education and Workforce Development; House Committee on Higher Education Policy and Finance
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chairs: Sen. Terri E. Bonoff, Rep. Bud Nornes
Agenda: Recommend nominees for the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota to be presented to a Joint Convention of the Legislature.

Bill Introductions

Please see the attached spreadsheet for the most recent higher education related bill introductions.

Thank you.

Melissa Fahning
Director of Legislative Communications
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities
651-201-1757 (work) 612-483-3741 (cell)


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