Driving Change in Higher Education.

Policy Update-April 30, 2012

Minnesota Legislature nearing end of session, still no conference committee to address the bonding bill
Last week, the Higher Education Conference Committee passed the omnibus higher education bill. This bill included the following provisions that impact the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system:
  • Textbook work group to study ways to reduce costs and expand access to more affordable textbook alternatives
  • Continuing operations for MnSCU schools in the event of a future government shut down
  • Requirement that instructors provide a list of recommended course materials at least 45 days prior to the first day of class
  • Requirement that college bookstores must notify students of required and recommended course materials at least 30 days prior to the beginning of the semester
  • An increase in MnSCU’s ability to issue revenue bonds from $300 million to $405 million
Also, the Capital Investment Conferees have yet to be named. The Capital Investment Conference Committee will take up the bonding bill that appropriates money for MnSCU line-item projects, as well as, Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) funding and revenue fund projects.
Congress takes notice of the potential rate increases for subsidized Direct Stafford Loans
In the last several weeks, there has been a great deal of attention at the federal level for the impending interest rate hikes for subsidized Direct Stafford Loans. The interest rate on subsidized Direct Stafford Loans is scheduled to increase from 3.4 to 6.8% on July 1 of this year. Both Republicans and Democrats are supporting measures to stop this rate hike.
Last Friday, the House of Representatives voted to keep the rates at 3.4% for subsidized Direct Stafford Loans. Keeping the interest rate at 3.4% will cost the Federal Government $5.9 billion. To pay for maintaining the 3.4% rate, the House of Representatives legislation will use money from the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
The Senate will take up interest rate issue on May 8. Democrats, who hold the majority in the Senate, are looking to close corporate tax loopholes as a solution to pay for keeping the interest rate at the same level.  To read more about the House legislation click here.
Congresswoman McCollum and Senator Franken to address student debt today
Congresswoman Betty McCollum is holding a listening session on student debt today at Century College. Students from MnSCU colleges and universities as well as the University of Minnesota will meet with Congresswoman McCollum to share their stories.
Senator Franken will hold a press conference today at the Minnesota State Capitol to address the subsidized Direct Stafford loan interest rates. Senator Franken will also introduce legislation to develop a universal financial aid form which will allow students to compare financial aid packages from various schools. This legislation is intended to provide families with a better idea on the real cost of higher education.


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