Friday, January 16, 2009

Governor delivers state address, Higher education accoutability

State-of-the-state proposes new ideas
More online, jobs, education reform, and salary freezes were all focuses of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s state-of-the-state address delivered yesterday at the State Capitol. “It’s time our colleges and universities move more aggressively to deliver more of their courses online,” he said. He praised the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities for accepting the challenge to deliver 25 percent of credits online by 2015. The governor also recommended a firm cap on tuition “Otherwise, the necessary changes in higher education we will make this session will fall too heavily on students and their families.”

As part of the solution to the state’s budget deficit, the governor also called for a two-year wage freeze on all state workers. He said there will likely be some lay-offs but a wage freeze will help minimize the effect.

Other points of the address included job growth and primary education reform. Realizing that the state is facing a significant number of job losses, Gov. Pawlenty proposed that Minnesota grow jobs by offering tax breaks to businesses. In K-12 education, his two focuses were increasing the Q-comp pay for high achieving teachers across the state of Minnesota and making teachers more prepared for jobs. “We have minimum requirements for pharmacists, dentists, engineers and just about every other profession. We should have minimum entrance standards for people who do our most important job: educating our children.”

This is the first step in the legislative process. The governor will announce his budget recommendations Jan. 27. It is likely some of the ideas presented in this speech will be represented in his budget proposal. The Legislature will then come out with a House and Senate budget and craft legislation to enact ideas. The legislative session wraps up May 18, and there's a lot of work to be completed before then.

The entire transcript of the governor’s speech is available here:

Higher education performance presented to the Senate
Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division members heard from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education yesterday on higher education performance. Susan Heegaard, director of the Office of Higher Education, presented an accountability report on higher education that outlined five state goals for postsecondary institutions. The goals focus on improving the success of all students, increasing student learning, increasing affordability and access and creating a system that will produce graduates who can contribute to the development of the state's economy and compete globally.

Heegaard said that Minnesota ranks quite high nationally in categories like degree attainment, retention rate and advanced placement testing. Heegaard also said that even though Minnesota has a fairly high rate of access and choice for students looking to enter into postsecondary education, the state still needs to make dramatic improvements in the area of affordability.

Tricia Grimes, policy analyst for the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, presented a report that is primarily used to provide policymakers with information they can use to assess and improve postsecondary education in each state.

Grimes said that the report, Measuring Up, showed that Minnesota performs very well in awarding certificates and degrees compared to other states, with 60 percent of college students completing a bachelor's degree within six years. Grimes also said that Minnesota performs fairly well in preparing its young people for college and in providing college opportunities for its residents. Even though a large portion of Minnesota residents have a bachelor's degree, there are substantial ethnicity gaps, said Grimes. The report showed that if all racial groups had the same educational attainment and earnings as caucasian students, total annual personal income in the state would be about $4 billion higher.

Grimes concluded by saying that all states received an incomplete in learning because there is not sufficient data to allow meaningful state-by-state comparisons. Additionally, Grimes said that, like Minnesota, 49 states were also given an "F" in affordability due an increase in tuition without a comparable increase in available grants. California, which received a "C", was the only state not given a failing grade in affordability.

At the Capitol:
Legislative schedules are available for the House and Senate.

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