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Policy Update

Governor Dayton's picks for MnSCU student trustees


Governor Mark Dayton made his selections for MnSCU two-year student trustees. Kelly Charpentier-Berg & Maleah Otterson, two students active on their campuses and in MSCSA, were Dayton's choices to serve two-year student terms on the MnSCU Board of Trustees. Join us in congratulating Kelly and Maleah.

The politics of tuition rates

A recent study by Kent State University Professor C. Lockwood Reynolds shows that over the past half century, there is a connection between gubernatorial election years and lower tuition rates. The study found that tuition is 1.5% lower in gubernatorial election years than other years. Reynolds concludes that lower tuition rates, which are normally announced for the coming year close to election time, are an easy way for a sitting governor to show voters that the state is in good shape and headed in the right direction. Interestingly the study found that tuition was held even lower when the governor won the upcoming election by a wide margin, which seems to suggest that the incumbent governors were trying to help lawmakers in their own political parties win their elections more than they were trying to help themselves. The pattern holds true for governors from both political parties. Read more about the connection between election year politics and tuition rates.

Affordable Care Act and student workers

The Affordable Care Act is making many colleges and universities examine the number of hours they allow students to work on-campus jobs. Starting in 2015, the law requires that businesses with over 99 employees provide health insurance to at least 70% of employees that work over 30 hours a week. Many colleges and universities are starting to limit student workers to 30 hours rather than taking on the cost of providing health insurance. Complicating matters for institutions that might consider offering coverage is the difficulty of predicting the number of students who might sign up for insurance because a large number of student workers are eligible to stay on their parents’ insurance plans through age 26. There are several proposed bills that would exempt colleges and universities from having to cover full-time students. The issue has also led to increased discussion of the impact of working over 30 hours a week on students. Read more about the Affordable Care Act and its effect on student workers.

Column highlights MSCSA’s new cabinet & community college enrollment gains

A recent column by Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change, wove together the biographies of MSCSA’s new cabinet and figures from various studies to tell the story of increased enrollment at two-year colleges in Minnesota. The article cites an Office of Higher Education publication that shows increased enrollment at two-year institutions from about 60,000 in 1980 to around 120,000 in 2012. Also, the article points to a recent Georgetown University study that projects that 74% of jobs available in Minnesota through 2020 will require some education beyond high school. Read more and share why you chose to attend a two-year college in the comments here.

Proposed changes to PLUS loan standards 

The Obama administration is proposing changes to the PLUS loan program that would ease the credit requirements for families seeking a loan. The proposed changes include spelling out the fact that accounts more than 90 days delinquent will be considered as “adverse credit” that hurts a borrower's chances of receiving a loan, exempting up to $2,085 in delinquent debt from counting against a potential borrower and reducing the credit period that is looked at from five to two years. The Department of Education estimates that the changes in policy would expand PLUS loan access to an additional 371,000 borrowers. Critics are concerned that expanding the Parent PLUS loan to more borrowers would saddle more low-income borrowers with a debt that they will have difficulty ever repaying. Read more about the Obama administration’s proposed changes to PLUS loan standards.

Changes coming to Northwest Technical College

If all goes according to plan, there are big things brewing at Northwest Technical College (NTC) and Bemidji State University (BSU). NTC recently applied for a “change of control” to its accrediting body, which would further the alignment it already has with BSU. The increased partnership will lead to a new name for the college and the loss of six to ten staff positions and some faculty reductions in 2015-16. The moves are meant to combat a recent trend that has seen a 20% enrollment drop in the last four years and capitalize on the fact that 10% of NTC students continue on to BSU programs. The proposal will allow students to take many of their general education credits at NTC and then transition easily into four-year programs at BSU. Read more about the proposed changes at Northwest Technical College.

Legislation reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs new higher ed-related benefits for vets

Last week legislation largely aimed at fixing the wait-time issues at the Department of Veteran Affairs passed both the House and Senate. The legislation also has a new benefit for veterans and their families. Public universities that wish to continue receiving GI Bill benefits must offer veterans and their families in-state tuition. Veterans groups have long pushed for this because those returning from military service often have difficulty meeting in-state tuition residency requirements. Around 30 states or university systems already have laws or policies that view veterans as in-state students, including Minnesota. Read more about veterans being considered in-state residents here.

MnSCU BOT votes to approve future chancellor contracts

MnSCU BOT votes to approve future chancellor contracts

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees voted that they will approve all future contracts and contract modifications with the chancellor. This change follows the report last month that former Board Chair Clarence Hightower had signed a new three-year contract with Chancellor Steven Rosenstone in October. At that time, there were calls for increased transparency with the contract process that led to a study of how other organizations deal with contracts with their lead executives. Read more about the changes to the MnSCU BOT procedure for approving contracts.

Education Department testing student aid in non-credit-hour-based programs

The Education Department is launching a trial program to graduate more non-traditional student more quickly. Selected “experimental sites” will be allowed to award aid for competency-based programs, prior-learning assessments or programs that blend direct assessment and credit-hour coursework. These institutions won’t be limited by regulations and laws that restrict student aid to traditional credit-hour programs. These limitations have made it difficult for programs that award credits for work experience to get off the ground. The House of Representatives just passed a bill that creates a similar competency-based pilot program. Read more about the Education Department’s “experimental sites” program around credit for prior learning.


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