Last Friday, the Senate voted to pass the higher education conference committee report by a vote of 44 to 22. Following the Senate vote, the House of Representatives also passed the report by a vote of 76 to 56. The final higher education bill provides more than $102 million above the base appropriation for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system, $78.5 million for the University of Minnesota system, and nearly $70 million for the Office of Higher Education.
MnSCU related parts of the bill include:
$78 million to freeze tuition for the biennium
$17 million for quality faculty retention
$7.3 million for the leveraged equipment program which must be matched dollar for dollar in private donations
$50,000 for a Mental Health Summit that MnSCU will facilitate
The system must meet 3 of 5 performance metrics outlined in the bill to obtain 5 percent of the 2015 appropriation
MnSCU’s appropriations in fiscal year 2014 total $587.9 million
For fiscal year 2015, the system will receive $605.1 million in state support
Changes to the Minnesota State Grant Program include:
A pilot program that pro-rates the assigned family responsibility in the Minnesota State Grant Program for working, part-time students at MnSCU institutions
An increase in the living and miscellaneous expense allowance (LME) from $7,000 to $7,900
An increase in the assigned student responsibility from 46% to 50%
A raise in the tuition maximum cap at four-year institutions from $10,488 to $13,000; the two-year cap remains at $5,808
Under this bill, undergraduate, in-state tuition is frozen at the University of Minnesota for the biennium. The legislature appropriated $35.6 million for the MnDRIVE (Minnesota Discovery, Research and Innovation Economy) program for the University of Minnesota. MnDRIVE aims to connect Minnesota’s economic needs and the University’s research mission.
Additionally, the bill includes the “Minnesota Dream Act” which makes all students eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of federal immigration status. The Dream Act also allows these students to apply for state issued financial aid.
The House Higher Education Finance and Policy Chair Representative Gene Pelowski said of the bill, “Students won’t spend more, they won’t borrow more and, hopefully, we will have turned the corner on acquiring debt.” Following the Senate passage of the bill Higher Education and Workforce Development Chair Senator Terri Bonoff stated, “Today, we affirmed a bold vision for higher education in Minnesota that addresses our State’s most pressing need, jobs, now. We are making a major investment in higher education and workforce development to increase access and give Minnesota students the chance to attend the best programs our State has to offer, whether they be public or private.”
Imagine that well over half of all Minnesotans are overweight or obese. Imagine that college students are faced with crushing debt and are looking for any way possible to pay for an education. You shouldn’t have to overly tax your imagination because these are issues facing hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans right now.
Every year, MSCSA awards MSCSA Leadership Scholarships to students who are active and positive role models in their community while maintaining a high academic standard. These scholarships help make education more affordable and accessible so that students are able to continue making a difference in the lives of others and achieve their educational goals.
The good news is, a group of individuals are joining forces to increase the awareness of these issues in a very unique way and there is a way you can help!
For the third consecutive year, I am spearheading the “26.2 Scholarship Crew” fundraiser to create more awareness of healthy living and affordable higher education. Over the last two years, with the help of the scholarship crew, I have been able to raise over $7,500 while also crossing the finish line at the 2011 Grandma’s Marathon. Unfortunately, the last two years I have had to drop out of the Twin Cities Marathon due to medical emergencies. However, this year I am pledging to cross the finish line of the Twin Cities Marathon on October 6 and raise an additional $2,500 for the MSCSA Leadership Scholarship.
While I am more determined than ever to reach these goals, I am also excited to announce that I am expanding the “26.2 Scholarship Crew” initiative. This year I have decided to expand the fundraiser by inviting 5 student leaders just as passionate about this cause to join me. These students have pledged to each raise $650 for the MSCSA Leadership Scholarship and to finish the Twin Cities 10k on October 5. Joining me on the racecourse and in raising money for the scholarship are the following student leaders:
Shannon Glenn – Metropolitan State University Kyle Vanderflute – Lake Superior College Michelle McDonald – Lake Superior College Ali Greene – Lake Superior College Zak Radzak – Lake Superior College
Running in long distance races are never easy. However, neither is being a student. Because of this, the “26.2 Scholarship Crew” is dedicating their run to students who give back to students and the community everyday, whether it be serving as a mentor or volunteering in their community.
Please join the MSCSA “26.2 Scholarship Crew” in supporting Minnesota college students and healthy living by donating to the MSCSA Leadership Scholarship at www.mscsa.org/scholarshipcrew.
Higher Education Conference Committee meeting today Today at 3:00 p.m., the members of the Higher Education Conference Committee will meet to reconcile the differences between the Senate and the House omnibus bills. The House bill spends $150 million for the biennium and would freeze tuition at the University of Minnesota and at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. The Senate bill spends more than $260 million to freeze tuition at the University of Minnesota and fund workforce development initiatives at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. The Conference Committee budget target is $250 million.
Possible changes in tuition reciprocity at the University of Wisconsin A committee at the University of Wisconsin comprised of students, staff, and faculty is recommending the University of Wisconsin-Madison charge Minnesota students out-of-state tuition. This would exempt Madison from longstanding reciprocity tuition rates. Currently, Minnesota students pay a few thousand dollars more than Wisconsin residents. To enact this recommendation, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents and the Wisconsin legislature must approve the change. Click here to read more about the potential reciprocity changes at the University of Wisconsin.
Long-term solutions for Stafford Loan interest rates introduced Last Thursday, two bills were introduced in Congress to address the doubling of the interest rates for subsidized Stafford loans from 3.4% to 6.8% that is scheduled to occur on July 1. Senators Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Richard Durbin from Illinois proposed setting interest rates partially based on the cost of administering the loan program. Representatives John Tierney from Massachusetts and Joe Courtney from Connecticut introduced the House companion to the Reed-Durbin bill. This legislation sets interest rates annually based on a percentage decided upon by the Education Secretary to cover the costs of the program, in addition to basing rates around the Treasury bill. Stafford interest rates under this proposal would be capped at 6.8% during periods of high rates. Representative Courtney has another proposal that will allow Congress to postpone the scheduled increase for two years to allow time to develop a long-term solution. For more information on the Stafford interest rate proposals, click here.
“Path to Prosperity Act” passes in Minnesota Senate Last week, the Minnesota Senate passed the “Path to Prosperity Act,” a bill that allows undocumented college students to pay in-state tuition by a vote of 41-23. The bill also allows undocumented students to apply for state aid and is also known as the Minnesota Dream Act. Senator Sandy Pappas, the bill’s chief author will attempt to get the Prosperity Act added to final the Higher Education bill during Conference Committee. The House companion bill, authored by Representative Carlos Mariani, did not pass out of the House Higher Education committee. Governor Dayton has indicated his support for this bill. If the Prosperity Act is passed, Minnesota would be the sixteenth state to offer in-state tuition to undocumented students and the fourth state to allow these students to access state financial aid programs. Undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid. To read more about the Prosperity Act, click here.
University of Minnesota seeks to publish average course grades Last month, the University of Minnesota Faculty Consultative Senate recommended that the University electronically publicize the average grade in academic courses. The Senate is seeking to post the percentage of “A” grades and average grades in programs to be available for five years. The goal of this proposal is to combat allegations of grade inflation, and to help students see how they are doing academically among their peers. The proposal awaits approval from the vice provost and dean of undergraduate education. Click here to read more about the University of Minnesota's plan to publish average grades (subscription required).
New Report finds variety of course offerings can be overwhelming for students Research presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association suggests that community college students are confused by wide selections of course offerings, which can result in slower progress towards attaining a degree or even dropping out. The research is based on data from 16 focus groups of students at Macomb Community College in Michigan. The college offers more than a hundred degree programs. Researchers says that the multitude of course offerings often leads students to avoid making decisions or to choose classes that do not directly fulfill graduation requirements. The research also highlighted the difficulty many students face in transferring credits to a university. Many of the issues students in the focus group faced could be resolved with greater advising. Often colleges lack the resources for sufficient counselors that can help students make informed decisions about course offerings and develop pathways to graduation. At some institutions, a single counselor can be responsible for up to a thousand students. The authors outlined the following recommendations for colleges: simplify student choices by developing structured programs with a course sequence, teach first-year students “college success” courses on how to use available online tools to determine their academic goals, ensure critical-thinking skills are incorporated into all general education classes, and create online systems to allow students to compare programs in terms of requirements, costs, transferability, and employment prospects. For more information about this research, click here (subscription required).