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Policy Update

State Legislative Movement

State Legislative Movement

The 2014 state legislative session continues to move rapidly. Thus far, the focus has surrounded a few key areas. One of those is the potential for a supplemental budget. Since the release of the state's most recent budget forecast, which showed a projected surplus of approximately $1.2 billion, legislators have been grappling with how to use those dollars. 

Also in the past week, both the House and Senate Higher Education Committees met to deal with the "Unsession bill." This legislation aims to remove unnecessary statutory language. The bill passed both committees unanimously and isn't controversial.

As always, if you have questions regarding a legislative issue, please feel free to contact the MSCSA Office at  651-297-5877.

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State Legislative Session Off to a Busy Start

State Legislative Session Off to a Busy Start

The 2014 legislative session is off to a fast start. Both the House and Senate Higher Education Committees held hearings last week. The House committee heard from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) on the system's bonding proposal. The system has proposed a number of projects on campuses across the state. The number one priority continues to be HEAPR dollars, which are used on campuses to repair current facilities. 

The Senate committee held one hearing this past week. Of note, the committee heard a proposal that has yet to be officially introduced, which seeks to address how remedial education courses are paid for by students. The proposed bill, brought forward by a group called Students for Reform in Education, would institute a shared responsibility model when it comes to who pays the costs of remedial courses taken by Minnesota high school graduates. Currently, the student pays the full cost of the remedial course. Under this new system, the student, school district, and college would all be responsible for a third of the cost.

Yesterday, the House Higher Education Committee heard from the University of Minnesota regarding their system bonding proposal. Also this week, the House committee will likely roll out their version of the "Un-session" legislation. In the Senate, the MnSCU system will present the system bonding proposal.

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2014 Minnesota Legislative Session Begins

2014 Minnesota Legislative Session Begins

The 2014 state legislative session begins Tuesday, February 25. Like most non-budget years, the major focus of the session is likely to be around the passage of a capital investment bill (also known as a bonding bill) which will fund building and repair projects around the state. The 2014 session, a short session that must adjourn by May 19, will also juggle a variety of other priorities, including the state’s projected $825 million budget surplus. Governor Dayton has additionally announced 2014 as the “unsession,” an attempt to streamline state government. State agencies including Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), have issued proposals to eliminate unnecessary and burdensome language from law.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system submitted a bonding request, which was considered as a part of Governor Dayton's bonding. The Governor recommended a total of $151.4 million in projects for MnSCU system campuses with $37 million of that being financed by campuses and the system. This number included a recommendation for $40 million in HEAPR funds, which are used to repair existing facilities. The Governor's recommendation also includes funding for 17 campus and system projects.

Moving forward, both the House and Senate Capital Investment Committees will create recommendations and a bonding bill will likely take shape at some point during the coming weeks. Unlike most legislation, a bonding bill requires a higher vote threshold to pass so the process is a bit different. The House Higher Education Committee will hold a hearing this week that will allow MnSCU and the University of Minnesota to lay out their full bonding proposals. 

There is also likely to be consideration of supplemental budget requests for state agencies. MnSCU has submitted such a proposal for consideration by the legislature and Governor. The system is asking for over $40 million in new money to be added to its current appropriation.

As always, if you have questions or concerns regarding a legislative matter, please feel free to contact the MSCSA office.

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Study finds a college degree is still “worth it”

Study finds a college degree is still “worth it”

A study by the Pew Research Center found that despite the high cost of attendance, a college degree impacts earnings more than ever before. Those workers with only a high school diploma earned just 62 percent of the salary of college graduates. In 1965, high school graduates earned 81 percent of that of college graduates. High school graduates were also more likely to live in poverty or face unemployment. ‘‘In today’s knowledge-based economy, the only thing more expensive than getting a college education is not getting one,’’ said Paul Taylor, Pew’s executive vice president and co-author of the report. Read more about the study here.

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Free Community College proposal in Tennessee

Free Community College proposal in Tennessee

Last week, Tennessee Governor William Haslam proposed “the Tennessee Promise,” a plan that would have the state of Tennessee pay the tuition and fees of all high school graduates in the state who wish to attend a community or technical college for two years. To pay for this, Haslam intends to use state lottery reserves to create an endowment. It is estimated to cost around $34 million in the first year. The Governor hopes that this will encourage low-income students to attend college who would otherwise not consider enrolling because of the sticker price. If students seek a four-year degree, they could reduce student loan debt dramatically by paying around $8,000 a year in tuition for the last two years of a bachelor’s degree at Tennessee’s public universities. Click here to read more about the Tennessee promise.

United States Department of Education releases commentary on President Obama’s higher education proposals

Last Thursday, the Department of Education released hundreds of pages of formal comments it has received on President Obama’s proposed college ratings system. Many comments express concern over the implementation and impact of the proposal.  Some questioned if a ranking system is the appropriate role of the federal government. Additionally, a variety of technical challenges were outlined in the comments. Another area of concern is that rankings could create the wrong incentives for schools and could adversely impact schools seeking to serve low-income and first generation college students. For more information on reactions to Obama's higher education plan, click here.

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