Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Governor revises his budget; Financial aid bills discussed

Governor revises his budget proposal
The governor presented revisions to his original budget recommendation yesterday, which take into account the $6.4 billion budget deficit projected in the Feb. budget forecast and federal stimulus funds for the state. The level of detail that explains the budget recommendation specifically for higher education and the system has not been made public yet. It is expected to be posted on the Minnesota Management and Budget Web site this morning.

The governor's original budget cut to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system of $146 million (base cut) will be restored with some one-time federal stimulus funds. Gov. Pawlenty also renewed his recommendation that both the system and the University of Minnesota freeze or cap tuition increases. Pawlenty also mentioned the Pell grant program and said that in his new budget, qualified students should receive increases in student grant funding due to an increase in the Pell grant program under the federal stimulus package.

We will continue to keep you updated as we learn more specifics.

Financial aid bills discussed in House
A proposal to cut financial aid for students at private, for-profit colleges was defeated in the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division hearing yesterday. HF1414, sponsored by Rep. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, would have made students at schools such as Rasmussen College and Minnesota School of Business ineligible to receive money through the state grant program.

Grants to students at for-profit schools currently account for more than $20 million annually. Rep. Bigham said the bill would redirect that money to students at public colleges and universities and also private nonprofit schools like St. Olaf College, Macalester College and Hamline University.

Supporters of the bill argued the proposal would prioritize state dollars during a time of record deficits. Opponents said it would unfairly restrict the options for students to choose the education they think will work best for them. The companion bill awaits a hearing in the Senate.

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

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