2015 Legislative Summary

Good morning,

The below summary was provided to the Board of Trustees this morning at the Finance and Facilities Committee meeting, and includes legislation that impacts Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. I will provide an update regarding the status of the higher education bill once more information becomes known.

2015 Legislative Summary

The 2015 legislative session adjourned midnight May 18, 2015 after a hurried attempt to get all bills approved and on their way to Governor Mark Dayton for consideration. The major spending bills that were approved this session by the Legislature, including the higher education bill, will spend $42 billion in the 2016-2017 biennium.

Other bills did not make it this session, including the omnibus tax bill and the transportation bill. The House Republicans and Senate Democrats couldn’t come to an agreement on the amount of tax credits proposed or funding for transportation projects. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, agreed to leave $1 billion of the almost $2 billion budget surplus on the bottom line to try and come to an agreement next year.

Governor Dayton said he will veto the $17 billion E-12 education funding bill, which includes $400 million in new spending, but does not include the pre-K funding that was a top priority for Dayton. Dayton said he will call a special session so they can pass an E-12 education bill that everyone can agree on, but said he prefers to wait to call the special session until a new deal is reached with legislative leaders. As for the other spending bills, Dayton has through Friday, May 22 to sign or veto the bills that have been sent to him.

Higher education bill

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities asked the Legislature this session to fund a budget request of $142 million to support inflationary costs, and provide for a tuition freeze over the 2016-2017 biennium. The request would protect programs on campuses across the state to continue serving students and meet the workforce needs of Minnesota, protect the ability to deliver the programs, and protect affordability to ensure access for all Minnesotans.

Higher education was one of the first appropriation bills to receive their target late last week. Conferees were given $166 million in new funding for higher education in Minnesota.

The final agreement includes for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities $100 million for tuition relief at the colleges and universities, which is 70 percent of MnSCU’s $142 million request. The two-year college tuition rates are frozen both years of the biennium with a once percent reduction the second year; and the four-year state universities tuition is frozen the second year of the biennium.

The final agreement also includes funding that impacts Minnesota State Colleges and Universities as follows:

  • $115,000 in funding for MnSCU to implement new transfer pathways for associate of arts degrees, associate of science degrees, and associate of fine arts degrees that will lead to baccalaureate degree programs. A report is due to the Legislature by March 15, 2016 regarding the status.
  • $35,000 each year of the biennium to implement a program to assist foreign-born students and groups underrepresented in nursing to succeed in postsecondary nursing programs at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and Century College, as well as at two colleges or universities in greater Minnesota.
  • $175,000 each year of the biennium to establish a veterans-to-agriculture pilot program at South Central College. FY2016 funds are to be used to establish the South Central College’s program, and the FY2017 funds are to be used to support up to six additional program sites statewide.
  • $225,000 (one-time appropriation) each year of the biennium to create and develop a teacher preparation program leading to licensure in agricultural education at Southwest Minnesota State University.
  • $50,000 each year of the biennium to develop and teach online agriculture courses by farm business management faculty at colleges that offer farm business management.
  • $40,000 to MnSCU each year of the biennium to implement the sexual assault policies required in the bill. Among other things, the bill requires postsecondary institutions to provide comprehensive sexual assault training to students and document the student’s completion of the training.
  • $200,000 is appropriated in FY2016 for a year-long student teaching pilot program at MnSCU institutions. There is further language in the bill that states other teacher preparation programs may use the MnSCU model to provide a year-long student teaching program that combines clinical opportunities with academic coursework and in-depth student teaching experiences to offer students ongoing mentorship, coaching and assessment, help to prepare a professional development plan, and structured learning experiences.
  • $18,000 additional funds each year for a transfer to the Cook County Higher Education Board to provide educational programming and academic support services to remote regions in northeastern Minnesota.
  • $250,000 appropriated to College Possible to support programs of college admission and college graduation for low-income students through an intensive curriculum of coaching and support at both the high school and postsecondary level.
  • $1 million in FY2016 and $2 million in FY2017 appropriated to the Office of Higher Education for dual training competency grants through MOHE.
  • $200,000 appropriated to the Department of Labor and Industry for dual training competency grants to the Department for identification of competency standards for dual training.
  • $340,000 each year of the biennium is appropriated to the Office of Higher Education for grants to develop new concurrent enrollment courses that satisfy the elective standard for career and technical education and grants to postsecondary institutions to expand existing concurrent enrollment programs.

The bill includes language regarding performance funding, and withholds five percent of the fiscal year 2017 appropriation until MnSCU meets the goals. 100 percent of the funding will be released if MnSCU meets three, four or five of the goals; 67 percent of the funding will be released if two of the goals are met; 33 percent if one goal is met; and 0 percent if none of the goals are met. The final goals are:

(1) increase by at least four percent in fiscal year 2015, compared to fiscal year 2008, degrees, diplomas, and certificates conferred and provide a report to the chairs and ranking minority members of the legislative committees with jurisdiction over higher education on the separate changes in the number of degrees, diplomas, and certificates conferred;

(2) increase by at least five percent the fiscal year 2015-related employment rate for 2014 graduates, compared to the 2011 rate for 2010 graduates;

(3) for fiscal year 2016, reallocate $22,000,000 of costs. The Board of Trustees is requested to redirect those funds to invest in direct mission activities, stem growth in tuition and student fees, and to programs that benefit students;

(4) decrease by at least ten percent the fiscal year 2015 headcount of students enrolled in developmental courses compared to fiscal year 2013 headcount of students enrolled in developmental courses; and

(5) increase by at least five percent the fiscal year 2015 degrees awarded to students who took no more than 128 credits for a baccalaureate degree and 68 credits for associate in arts, associate of science, or associate in fine arts degrees, as compared to the rate for 2011 graduates.

The bill includes language that requires MnSCU to adopt a written public policy that outlines the presidential selection process, and encourages all stakeholders to engage in developing that policy.

The bill establishes a MnSCU College Occupational Scholarship Pilot Program that will provide tuition assistance for technical education students who are recent high school graduates. The program is authorized to operate during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years. $5 million was appropriated in fiscal year 2017 and $3.5 million in fiscal year 2018 for program grants and mentoring outreach. No additional funding is provided after fiscal year 2018.

In addition to the concurrent enrollment funding, there is language that requires by the 2020-2021 school year, concurrent enrollment programs must be NACEP (National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships) accredited. The bill also requires all concurrent enrollment programs to have 16-member advisory boards in addition to a concurrent enrollment faculty coordinator who shall serve as the chair and convene the meetings. The advisory boards are to engage stakeholders in concurrent enrollment decisions.

The bill sets a higher education statewide attainment goal: the number of Minnesota residents ages 25 to 44 years, who hold postsecondary degrees or certificates, should be increased to at least 70 percent by 2025. Every October 15, the Office of Higher Education is to report to the Legislature on the progress towards meeting that goal.

The bill includes a provision that establishes a teacher shortage loan forgiveness program. A teacher is eligible for the program if the teacher is teaching in a licensure field and in an economic development region with an identified teacher shortage.

Also included in the bill is language regarding placement in remediation and the testing process for determining if remediation for a student is necessary.

There is language in the bill that requires MnSCU to report to the Legislature on its activities and achievements related to the goal of improving timely completion of degrees and certificates. The report is to include many data sets including the percent of students placed in remedial education; the percent of students who complete remediation within one academic year; the percent of students that complete college-level gateway courses in one academic year; the percent of students who complete 30 semester credits per academic year; the student retention rate; time to complete a degree or certificate; and credits earned by those completing a degree or certificate or other program.

Additional language related to completion includes a provision that requires MnSCU to develop a comprehensive plan to encourage students to complete degrees, diplomas, or certificates in their fields of study. MnSCU is to consult with students, faculty, and administrators of the state colleges and universities and the Office of Higher Education to create a plan that would increase program completion at each college and university.

Regarding the state grant program, the final bill increases the living and miscellaneous expense allowance (LME) to the poverty level, and increases the tuition and fee maximums to the highest resident tuition charged at two and four-year public institutions.

Other bill highlights relevant to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

Contract ratification bill
The contract ratification bill that ratifies labor agreements and compensation plans already in place, including the IFO, MSCF, and MSUAASF contracts and the MnSCU administrators plan, was approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. Negotiated last year and put in place on an interim basis by the Legislative Coordinating Commission’s Subcommittee on Employee Relations, this bill provides the necessary final approval needed.

Omnibus jobs and economic development finance bill

The bill includes $800,000 in fiscal year 2016 from the workforce development fund for the customized training program for manufacturing industries. $350,000 is for a grant to Central Lakes College, $250,000 is for Minnesota West Community and Technical College, and $200,000 is for South Central College to implement this program. The program administers a customized training program for skilled manufacturing industries that integrates academic instruction and job-related learning in the workplace and MnSCU institutions.

The bill includes $500,000 each year of the biennium for the publication, dissemination, and use of labor market information for pilot programs in the workforce service areas to combine career and higher education advising.

The bill also includes $900,000 in fiscal year 2016 and $1.1 million in fiscal year 2017 for a grant to the Minnesota High Tech Association to support SciTechsperience, a program that supports science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) internship opportunities for two and four-year college students in their field of study.

Omnibus E-12 education finance bill

State bilingual and multilingual seals

There bill directs MnSCU colleges and universities to award college credits to students who demonstrate the required level of language proficiency in grade 10, 11, or 12 sufficient to receive a state bilingual or multilingual seal and who request the credits within three academic years of  graduating. This language also allows MnSCU to award credits to a student who receives a world language proficiency certificate.

Teacher education

There is language in the bill that requires teacher licensure candidates to submit a passing score on a Board of Teaching adopted skills test. The bill allows the Board of Teaching to issue up to four temporary one-year teaching licenses to a qualified candidate.

The language also requires the Board of Teaching and the entity administering teacher content, pedagogy, and skills exams to provide testing accommodations to a qualified applicant. There is language that encourages teacher preparation programs to provide a school year-long student teaching program with clinical opportunities, academic course work, and in-depth student teaching experiences.

There is also language in the bill that directs the Board of Teaching and the Board of School Administrators, in cooperation with the Minnesota Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (MACTE) and Minnesota colleges and universities offering Board of Teaching approved teacher preparation programs, annually to collect and report summary data on teacher and school administrator preparation and performance outcomes.

Postsecondary enrollment options

There is language that allows ninth and tenth grade students to enroll in a concurrent enrollment course subject to the agreement of the school district and the postsecondary institutions providing the course, or a world languages course available to eleventh and twelfth grade students that is consistent with world languages standards and proficiency seals and certificates.

There is language that allows a tenth grade student who did not take the eighth grade MCA reading test to substitute another reading assessment accepted by a MnSCU college or university enrolling the student in a career and technical education course under the postsecondary enrollment options program.

And the bill requires all MnSCU institutions to give full credit to a student enrolling in any MnSCU institution who is a high school PSEO student, completed a PSEO course or program for postsecondary credit that is part or all of a goal area or transfer curriculum at a MnSCU institution.


The bill requires MnSCU to submit a report to the Legislature by February 1, 2016 on implementing the transfer curriculum policy for PSEO students and how to standardize AP, IB and CLEP course equivalencies across all state colleges and universities.

The bill directs the Department of Education, the Office of Higher Education, MnSCU and the University of Minnesota to collect and report information to the Legislature by January 1, 2016 regarding tuition costs incurred by students enrolled in non-credit bearing college courses for developmental or remedial purposes, and Minnesota high schools who graduated the students taking the developmental education courses.


The bill removes from current law the requirement that high school students take a nationally normed college entrance exam as a condition of graduating from high school. The bill also removes from current law language directing the Department of Education to contract for a series of assessments aligned with state academic standards that include college and career readiness benchmarks. The bill encourages students to participate in a nationally recognized college entrance exam, and requires a school district to pay, one-time, the cost for an interested student in grade 11 or 12 to take a nationally recognized college entrance exam.

Omnibus state government and veterans finance bill

The bill includes $200,000 each year of the biennium for the costs of administering the Minnesota GI Bill postsecondary educational benefits, on-the-job training, and apprenticeship program.

Omnibus environment, natural resources and agriculture finance bill

Included in the bill is $2 million each year of the biennium for grants to the Minnesota Agriculture Education Leadership Council (MAELC) to enhance agricultural education with priority given to Farm Business Management challenge grants.

The bill also includes $113,000 each year of the biennium for a transfer to the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities for statewide mental health counseling support to farm families and business operators.

The bill includes the development of the agriculture research, education, extension, and technology transfer grant program to provide investments that will most efficiently achieve long-term agricultural productivity increases through improved infrastructure, vision, and accountability. In awarding these grants an advisory panel will be consulted, which will consist of a representative from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

Lawmakers will return for the 2016 legislative session March 8, 2016. The 2016 session is traditionally considered a bonding year, when legislators will work to pass a capital investment bill. During the interim, lawmakers will very likely visit MnSCU colleges and universities to view the bonding needs of the system prior to the session convening.

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


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