Driving Change in Higher Education.

Policy Update

MSCSA Policy Update – December 23, 2010

While the U.S. Congress has not yet passed this year’s appropriations bill, it has agreed on a temporary compromise to keep the federal government operating.  President Obama signed a bill on Wednesday that would continue funding at current levels through March 4, 2011.  It is not anticipated that the current lame-duck Congress will pass a final appropriations package before it adjourns.  Instead, that duty will be passed to the incoming Congress that will be sworn in in January.

2010 Census data was also released this week, which showed that the State of Minnesota has had sufficient population growth to retain all eight of its Congressional districts.  Minnesota was awarded the 435th seat in the allocation process, narrowly beating out North Carolina. Minnesota will now begin the process of redistricting Congressional districts as well as state legislative districts in light of the new demographic data.

MSCSA Legislative Update – December 20, 2010

It's been a relatively quiet week in state politics, as both Governor-Elect Dayton and the legislature finalize staffing and strategy for the coming year. The legislature announced its committee schedule this week; the Senate Higher Education Committee will meet on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:00 to 4:30 and the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 to 2:15. Committee membership has not yet been announced, nor has it been announced who the House Committee Administrator will be. It has been announced that former MSCSA Director of Government Relations Jason Fossum will be Committee Administrator in the Senate. Read about it here.

The U.S. Congress has not yet passed this year's budget bill. Both the House and Senate budget proposals include funding of the current $5.7 billion Pell Grant shortfall. If the shortfall is not funded, students will see a decrease in the maximum Pell Grant award in the 2011-12 school year. Congress did pass the so-called "Bush Tax Cuts" bill late Thursday night. The tax bill includes a two-year extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit. Originally part of the Stimulus Plan, the AOTC provides a $2,500 tax credit for qualified higher education expenses. $1,000 of the credit is refundable, meaning that students can get a partial refund for their higher education expenses, even if their income tax liability is less than $2,500. The tax bill also includes extension of an income tax deduction for higher education expenses and income tax deduction for student loan interest.

MSCSA Legislative Update – December 13, 2010

  • The big news in statewide politics last week was Republican Tom Emmer’s concession in the gubernatorial election. Emmer conceded to Democrat Mark Dayton on Wednesday morning, meaning that Dayton is now officially Minnesota’s Governor-elect and will take the oath of office on January 3, 2011. Governor-elect Dayton is now free to start the process of hiring staff and choosing his cabinet.
  • On the Federal front, Minnesota Congressman John Kline (R-2nd District) was named chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.  This Committee oversees both K-12 and higher education, as well as job training and workforce development programs.
  • President Obama and Congressional Republicans struck a deal to extend the “Bush Tax Cuts.”  Included in the compromise package is extension of the “American Opportunity Tax Credit,” a program designed to increase tax incentives for higher education students.  It remains unclear whether this compromise package will pass, due to opposition from many Congressional Democrats.
  • Congress also took up the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants, while allowing those children to attend college and receive federal financial aid.  Undocumented participants would have to meet certain eligibility requirements, including attending at least two years of college or engaging in two years of military service, to work toward citizenship status. The DREAM Act passed in the House but was tabled in the Senate.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has promised to bring the DREAM Act before the Senate for a vote in the near future.

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