Legislature on Spring Break
The Legislature will be on break from April 9-17.
House Higher Education Bill passed off House Floor
“I think we have a good bill with various initiatives that help students,” said Rep. Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls) who chairs the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Committee. “We’re doing the best we can with what we have to deal with.” Affordability, accountability, and accessibility for post-secondary education was the committee’s focus.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this bill and what it contains,” said Rep. Nick Zerwas (R-Elk River).
However, not all lawmakers were as optimistic.
“This is a bill that tries to address many things,” said Rep. Gene Pelowski Jr. (DFL-Winona). “Unfortunately it does none of them well.”
“Does it have everything? No. But we need to recognize it’s about choices,” Rep. Barb Haley (R-Red Wing) said. “I encourage people to look at the positives.”
In total, higher education spending would reach $3.22 billion from the General Fund in the 2018-19 biennium, an increase of $149.5 million from the current two-year total.
Minnesota State would receive $1.4 billion over the period, an increase of $42 million in Fiscal Year 2018 and $51 million in Fiscal Year 2019, of which $10 million is targeted to upgrade ISRS – the enterprise technology platform for all colleges and universities.
Laura King, chief financial officer for Minnesota State, previously noted the bill contains roughly half of the $178 million in new biennial funding requested. “If this bill becomes law, our campuses will have significant financial pressure,” she said.
A policy provision in the bill would require two-year colleges in the Minnesota State system to freeze tuition at the 2017-18 academic year rate in the second year of the biennium. There is no language on tuition at the state universities for the 2017-2018 academic year but tuition would be frozen for the 2018-2019 academic year.
The University of Minnesota would receive $1.2 billion over the biennium, an increase of $10 million and $12 million in the respective fiscal years. The university’s original budget request was an increase of $147.2 million over the biennium.
An amendment successfully offered by Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) would encourage the University of Minnesota to adopt tuition rate schedule close to the median of other Big Ten universities. Due to the university’s constitutional autonomy, the state cannot require it to adhere to the potential change.
An amendment unsuccessfully offered by Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center) would have required an institution that has been charged with fraud or false advertising to be revoked of its degree program. The current proposal allows the Office of Higher Education discretion on a per-case basis. The amendment failed 75-53.
When legislators return from the Passover/Easter break, conference committee members will be announced and work to reconcile the House and Senate bills will begin.