Monday, February 25, 2008

Capital Budget Request Highlighted on TPT: A green Minute Man

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities bonding request was highlighted on the Twin Cities Public Television’s Minute Man segment last week on Almanac.

To showcase the system’s request, the Minute Man traveled to Minnesota State University, Mankato and met up with the “green giant” to promote the system’s emphasis on green and sustainable renovation and construction projects. The 60-second segment featured a student in costume talking with President Richard Davenport in front of the Trafton Science Center. Renovation of the center is the No. 2 priority on the bonding request. Please view the clip here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Capital request presented, again

Last week, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system presented the 2008 bonding request to the House Higher Education committee, this week it was the Senate's turn. Yesterday, Chancellor James McCormick, Trustee Clarence Hightower, and Al Johnson, Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities, along with student, faculty and staff representatives, presented the $350.2 million request to members of the Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division. Committee members asked thoughtful questions, including wanting to know about projects that are ready to go. There is interest in projects that can move quickly in hopes of stimulating the economy.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

System bonding request goes before House Higher Education Committee

Chancellor James McCormick, Trustee Clarence Hightower, and Al Johnson, Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities, along with student, faculty and staff representatives, presented the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities bonding request to the House Higher Education and Work Force Development Policy and Finance Division Committee on Tuesday. Committee members listened as Al Johnson explained the $350 million bonding request, explaining that 16 projects were funded for design in the last bonding bill and will be ready for contract in the next 12 months and 14 projects are on the list in the design or design plus some construction phase. Johnson also explained that of the 37 projects on the list, 28 of the projects are renovation projects compared to new construction. Members asked questions about the debt service, citing concern for the burden of the debt service on students and the institutions. Up next, the committee will hear about the University of Minnesota's bonding request. The committee anticipates having a bill to the Capital Investment Committee by Feb. 26.

Monday, February 11, 2008

State Legislative Session begins Feb. 12, U.S. House passes HEA

State Update

Start of session – just days away

Next week will be an exciting week at the state Legislature. Just like students coming back to campus, legislators prepare to return to the Capitol for the second year of the biennium. The session convenes Tues., Feb. 12. On this first day, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities will present the system’s capital budget request to the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Policy and Finance Division. The following day, Wed., Feb. 13, Gov. Tim Pawlenty will give the State of the State address in St. Cloud.

The Legislature also will make its final higher education visit to a system campus next week as the Senate Higher Education Budget Division travels Thursday to Normandale Community College. In addition to lawmaker visits, Chancellor James McCormick has been going to campuses to view the bonding projects on this year’s list. The list of 37 projects focus on updating science and nursing labs, renovating classrooms, and repairing leaking roofs and failing heating systems. You may view the projects in more detail at here.

Minnesota career and technical education plan available for public review and comment

Under the 2006 federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, each state is required to submit a plan for career and technical education to the U.S. Department of Education. The Minnesota five-year state career and technical education plan is prepared jointly by the Perkins staff in the Office of the Chancellor, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, and the Minnesota Department of Education. The plan is reviewed by a statewide taskforce, which will provide input and recommendations. A series of meetings will be held throughout Minnesota in February to receive input and provide more information about the Perkins Plan.

• Feb. 13 - South Central College, 1920 Lee Boulevard, North Mankato, Conference Center C, 5-8 p.m.

• Feb. 19 - Anoka Technical College, 1355 West Highway 10, Anoka, Auditorium B, 5-8 p.m.

• Feb. 21 - Lake Superior College, 2101 Trinity Road, Duluth, Room F-1981, 5-8 p.m.

In addition, a satellite broadcast hearing will be 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 20. Seven feeder sites have been designated throughout Minnesota for this broadcast:

• Century College, West Campus Room 1420

• Southwest Minnesota State University, Room ST 266

• Northland Community & Technical College, Room 515

• Rochester Community & Technical College, Room ST 118

• Alexandria Technical College, Room 310

• St. Cloud Technical College, Room 1-412

• Mesabi Range Community & Technical College, Eveleth, Room F-130

Federal Update

House approves Higher Education Act; moves to conference committee

Working into the evening hours, the House approved the Higher Education Act, HR 4137, with a 354-58 vote on Thursday. This is the law that governs most federal student aid programs and sets higher education policy. The Senate passed its version of the reauthorization, S.1642, in July. Next steps include a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. It is still unclear at this point when we will see this happen.

On Friday, the government relations team and the Friends Action Network hosted Brittny McCarthy, federal relations and policy analyst for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. McCarthy provided information about what ended up in the bill, as detailed below.

The House approved 26 amendments and rejected one, an amendment that would have made private student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. That amendment, which was strongly supported by groups representing consumers and students, would have allowed borrowers to wipe out their debt after 5 years of repayment.

Significant amendments that did pass include the “manager’s amendment,” offered by Chairman George Miller, D-Calif. The “manager’s amendment” is a reference to the changes Chairman Miller wanted in the bill, including changes to the “college cost” provisions in the bill. Rather than a “watch list,” which is in the Senate bill, for those institutions that are increasing tuition at a faster rate than the college price index, the new language requires three “college affordability and transparency lists.” The lists would show the top 5 percent of institutions by sector in three categories: the most expensive, the least expensive, and those institutions with the largest percentage increase in tuition and fees over the previous three years. Institutions on the third list would be subject to submitting a report outlining factors contributing to the increase. In an amendment passed later in the day, additional requirements were made for those on the third list, including a requirement to develop annual benchmarks as it relates to tuition setting.

Another amendment offered by Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif, was to study the number and impact of regulations on higher education. Further amendments include tuition benefits for active military personnel and veterans, as well as prohibiting a state from charging members of the armed forces who are on active duty for more than 30 days and whose domicile or permanent duty station is in such state, and such members’ dependents, more than the in-state tuition for attending a public institution of higher education in that state.

Language was included to authorize a competitive grant program through the U.S. Department of Education that would allow institutions of higher education or consortia to create longitudinal data systems to efficiently and accurately manage, analyze and use individual student data. This language is similar to Senate language. Language was also included providing competitive Teach to Reach grants to eligible partnerships to provide general education teacher candidates with the knowledge and skills to effectively instruct students with disabilities in their classrooms. Eligible partnerships must include an institution of higher education, a special education department within that institution and a high-need local education agency.

Recognizing the high cost of textbooks is a problem, an amendment also was offered that creates a pilot competitive grant program (available to no more than 10 colleges) to assist institutions of higher education in setting up college textbook rental programs.

President releases fiscal year 2009 budget

President George W. Bush released a $3.1 trillion budget for fiscal year 2009 this week. Under his recommendation, 61 percent of spending under the president’s proposed budget would be for mandatory programs such as Social Security, Medicare and interest on the national debt, with annual spending for discretionary programs making up the remaining 39 percent. The administration is estimating that annual budget deficits will be $410 billion this year and $407 billion in fiscal year 2009. The growing deficit is expected partly because of stagnant federal revenues caused by the current economic slowdown, as well as the expected costs of the pending economic stimulus package. Included in the president’s budget recommendations was the elimination of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational-Technical Education Act program. This recommendation is not new, as the president has made this recommendation in previous budgets, and the program continues to be funded by Congress. Stay tuned.