Legislative Update – February 28, 2018

Minnesota’s economic outlook improves

The February economic forecast was released today by Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB), showing an improvement since the November forecast. MMB is projecting a surplus of $329 million for the current 2018-2019 biennium. This updated forecast is an increase from November, when the state was projected to have a $188 million deficit.

According to state budget officials, the “forecast reflects increased U.S. economic growth arising in part from short term stimulus from federal tax law changes.” Governor Mark Dayton and lawmakers will use the February forecast to prepare a potential supplemental budget this session.

You may find more information about the economic forecast at the below links:

Budget and Economic Forecast presentation

Complete budget and economic forecast document

Legislative committee deadlines announced

Each year the Legislature establishes deadlines for committee action on bills. House and Senate leadership set the below deadlines for committees to complete their work for the 2018 legislative session.

*Thursday, March 22 — Committees must act favorably on bills in the house of origin.

*Thursday, March 29 — Committees must act favorably on bills, or companions of bills, that met the first deadline in the other body.

*Friday, April 20 — Committees must act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills.

Minnesota State presents bonding request

The House Capital Investment Committee met yesterday to hear higher education bonding requests currently before the Legislature. Interim Chancellor Devinder Malhotra and Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Brian Yolitz presented Minnesota State’s $224.5 million bonding request.

Chancellor Malhotra shared with committee members that the students are at the core of the system’s capital request, and that the request responds to changing learning strategies of the students.

Associate Vice Chancellor Yolitz told the committee that the Board of Trustees’ top priority is asset preservation, or HEAPR. Yolitz said that the $130 million request for asset preservation “represents our stewardship commitment to taking care of the academic space we already have and need.” Yolitz continued, “Its specific focus is to keep our students, faculty and staff warm, safe and dry.”

Yolitz walked the committee members through the projects located around the state and thanked the committee for visiting Minnesota State’s campuses to see firsthand the infrastructure needs.

House higher education committee holds first hearing

The House Higher Education and Career Readiness Policy and Finance committee heard from President Larry Isaak with the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) yesterday. Minnesota is one of 12 states that is a member of MHEC. President Isaak explained to committee members how being part of MHEC benefits Minnesota. The Compact follows six goals: enhance productivity through reductions in administrative costs; encourage student access, completion and affordability; facilitate public policy analysis and information exchange; facilitate regional academic cooperation and services; promote quality educational programs; and encourage innovation in the delivery of educational services.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) also presented to committee members yesterday. Government Relations Manager Nekey Oliver provided members with an update on programs included in legislation in the 2017 session.

One of the programs Oliver explained is the MN Reconnect program. This program is a collaboration between OHE and Minnesota State to develop a new pilot program to support adult learners. Financial and technical support for the pilot program is provided from the Lumina Foundation and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO). This four-year grant is intended to support Minnesota State students who return to college to earn a credential after an absence of two or more years. Participating institutions include: Lake Superior College, Riverland Community College, South Central College, and Inver Hills Community College. The funding will be available for students starting fall of 2018, and more information will be provided spring of 2018.

Oliver also spoke about OHE’s efforts to prevent campus sexual violence. The Office hired a Campus Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator, Melissa Kwon. Oliver explained that Kwon has been tasked with supporting colleges and universities in providing sexual assault training to students and staff. She said Kwon will also schedule regional listening sessions this spring at college campuses across the state to learn more about the efforts being made to prevent sexual assaults and learn where more support may be needed.

Oliver also spoke about the emergency postsecondary grants available to institutions to be used to meet immediate student needs that could result in a student not completing the semester or their program. These needs could include emergency housing, food, and transportation. Oliver explained that an RFP went out in January and OHE is expecting to receive proposals by the end of this week with notification of recommended grant awards by the end of March.

She said each grantee could receive up to $43,000 for the emergency grants. Oliver went on to explain that Minnesota and Wisconsin are the only states with a program like this, and said the program has been receiving national attention. According to a 2015 survey of students at 17 Minnesota institutions, 15.8% of students experienced a food shortage and lacked money to buy food. Across the country, two-thirds of community college students report to experience food insecurity, one-half reported to experience housing insecurity and 14% of students reported to be homeless.

Another program included in legislation last session that Oliver explained is the Minnesota Teacher Candidate Grant. This grant provides financial assistance to eligible students enrolled in Minnesota undergraduate and graduate teacher preparation programs. Eligible students may receive awards of up to $7,500 for one semester when the student is completing the required student teaching experience. Grant applicants must intend to work in an identified shortage area and/or belong to a racial or ethnic group underrepresented in the Minnesota teacher workforce.

Information regarding these programs, and many more, may be found on the Office of Higher Education’s web site.

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