House releases higher education bill

Original article from April 4, 2019

The House Higher Education Finance and Policy committee released their higher education omnibus bill earlier today. As a reminder, the House higher education target was $304.9 million. Of that amount, the House is including $159.45 million for Minnesota State.

Included in the $159 million is $149 million for campus support. The bill freezes undergraduate tuition for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years. The $149 million for campus support will fund the tuition freeze.

The bill also includes $10 million for Next Gen, $6 million in the first year of the biennium and $4 million in the second year. The Next Gen project is a critical technology replacement of the twenty year-old outdated ISRS data system that will benefit all students, faculty and staff across the state.

The other new money for Minnesota State includes $250,000 for a mental health program at up to five two-year colleges, and $200,000 to expand the work on open educational resources with a focus on textbook affordability for students.

In regards to the State Grant program, the bill proposes to reduce the family contribution in year two by one additional percentage point. This will benefit families with an expected financial contribution. The bill is also proposing to increase the living and miscellaneous expense account (LME) to 110% of federal poverty guidelines, which is about a 9% increase. This change will increase every State Grant recipient’s full-time grant amount, as well as bring new recipients into the State Grant program. A change to the LME would benefit all grant recipients equally. The bill also includes funds to supplement the Pell Grant for DREAM Act students.

In other areas of the bill, there is $77,000 each year of the biennium for Hunger Free Campus Grants to be awarded to colleges who meet specified criteria. The grant is capped at $8,000. Minimum criteria includes: having an established on-campus food pantry or partnership with a local food bank to provide regular, on-campus food distributions; providing information to students regarding programs that reduce food insecurity; holding or participating in one hunger awareness event per academic year; having an established emergency assistance grant available to students; and establishing a hunger task force that meets a minimum of three times per academic year.

The bill includes $175,000 each year of the biennium for emergency assistance for post-secondary students. This money is intended to be used to meet immediate student needs that could result in a student not completing the term or their program including emergency housing, food and transportation.

The bill also includes $2 million each year of the biennium for the MN Reconnect program. This is a program focused on adult learners who have previously completed a minimum of 15 credits to finish their degree, diploma or certificate at a two-year institution within Minnesota State.

There is also $340,000 each year of the biennium for grants to develop new concurrent enrollment courses for career and technical education. The bill includes $2.7 million each year for student teacher candidate grants to support candidates belonging to a racial or ethnic group underrepresented in the teacher workforce and meeting other eligibility requirements; and the bill includes $2.5 million over the biennium for scholarships to candidates preparing to teach in licensure or demographic shortage areas.

There is also $250,000 each year of the biennium for teacher shortage loan forgiveness payments. There is funding for other loan forgiveness programs as well, including $25,000 additional funding each year for the aviation degree loan forgiveness program.

Policy areas in the bill include language that requires providing notice to sexual assault victims on campus of legal advocacy services available to them, as well as language that requires policies to establish an affirmative consent standard at higher education institutions.

The full bill can be found HERE.

Minnesota State is grateful for the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Chair Connie Bernardy’s support of higher education and Minnesota State.

Next steps for the bill include a walk-thru of the bill and testimony on Monday at 11:30 a.m., followed by mark-up and passage of the bill on Tuesday afternoon.

The Senate Higher Education Finance and Policy committee is scheduled to roll out their higher education omnibus bill Tuesday of next week. They plan to release the bill in committee Tuesday afternoon, followed by mark-up and passage of the bill on Thursday.

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