The higher education conference committee passed the higher education report earlier this evening. The expectation is that the bill will be taken up on the floor of both bodies yet tonight. Chairs Rep. Connie Bernardy and Senator Paul Anderson, conferees, Commissioner Dennis Olson and staff worked throughout the night to put the bill together. Minnesota State is grateful for their work.
Headed into conference committee, the House and Senate took different approaches to fund higher education for the 2020-2021 biennium. Specifically for Minnesota State, the Senate was proposing to appropriate $46.9 million, of which $22 million was for Next Gen; $15 million was for workforce development scholarships, $3 million would support the Board of Trustee’s workforce request, $4 million would go out to the colleges and universities for campus support, $500,000 would support the Z-degree textbook program, $1 million was for leveraged equipment, and there was $1.2 million in new funding for supplemental aid for operations and maintenance at non-metro two-year colleges. The Senate bill also froze tuition at 2% both years at the universities, and 2% and 1% at the two-year colleges.
In comparison, the House bill proposed $159 million for Minnesota State. $149 million was intended to pay for a tuition freeze, $10 million was to fund Next Gen, and there was $250,000 for a mental health program at up to five two-year colleges, as well as $200,000 to expand the work on open educational resources with a focus on textbook affordability for students.
Conferees received a target of $150 million last night. Of the $150 million, $81.5 million is for Minnesota State. Below is how the money is appropriated:
- $64.5 million for campus operating support
- $8 million for the Next Gen technology infrastructure project
- $1 million for workforce partnerships
- $7 million for workforce development scholarships
- $500,000 is included for textbook affordability, specifically for a Z-degree program at three colleges
- $500,000 for leveraged equipment
- $250,000 for mental health services on college campuses
- The bill caps tuition at 3% both years of the biennium
The online language that required any online differential tuition rate to be reduced to a comparable on-campus class, was not included in the final bill. There is however, language that freezes online tuition differential rates for both years of the biennium, as well as a required report due to the Legislature regarding online tuition differential, an analysis, and a plan to achieve parity related to tuition rates.
In regards to the State Grant program, the final bill reduces the assigned family contribution (AFR) by two additional percentage points. This will benefit families with an expected financial contribution. The bill is also proposing to increase the living and miscellaneous expense account (LME) to 106% of federal poverty guidelines from 101%.
The link to the conference committee report can be found HERE.
The Legislature must adjourn by midnight tonight. If they don’t finish their work, the Governor will have to call a special session.