Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bonding bill goes to conference committee, Higher education omnibus moving

Yesterday at the Capitol Bonding conference committee holds first meeting
The capital investment conference committee met for the first time yesterday afternoon, and House and Senate conferees compared the differences in the respective bills. HF855 / SF781, sponsored by Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, and Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, differ by $129.2 million.

"We are encouraged there will be a bill this year," Rep. Hausman said, adding that she and Sen. Langseth have spoken with the governor’s office. The next meeting of the conference committee has not yet been scheduled. Stay tuned.

Higher education omnibus bills moving fast
The House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division presented the omnibus higher education and workforce development finance bill yesterday afternoon and them met later in the evening to take up amendments to the bill. The committee is expected to pass it out of committee today. We will send a side-by-side comparison of the two bills shortly.

Highlights of the bill include:

The bill cuts the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system $160 million in base funding over the 2010-11 biennium. The bill then allocates federal stabilization funds (one-time) of $130 million.

Financial aid: the tuition maximum in the state grant program is set at $9,938 for students in four-year programs. The tuition and fee maximum for a student at a two-year college is the maximum tuition and fee amount charged at a two-year college. The LME is set at $6,900 each year; the assigned student responsibility is reduced from 46% to 45% of the cost of attending the institution; the number of semesters eligible for a state grant is increased from 8 semesters to 10 semesters; and as a condition of enrollment, each entering Minnesota resident student must complete the FAFSA.

- The bill appropriates $2 million each year for the existing Power of You program and for pilot rural and suburban sites.

- The bill appropriates $100,000 each year for financial aid offices at each of the colleges in the system to provide emergency aid grants to technical and community college students who are experiencing extraordinary economic circumstances.

- The appropriation to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is for operation and maintenance for direct support of instruction and related functions necessary to protect the core mission of educating students.

- Language states the Board may not fill administrative and managerial vacancies during the 2010-11 biennium in the central office or at any campus, and a search firm may not be used.

- Language is included that states the Board must not expend appropriations for competitive salaries, awards of excellence, campus and technology initiatives outside the allocation model or other Board of Chancellor initiatives. During the 2010-11 biennium, expenditures for technology must not exceed $40 million and expenditures for underrepresented students must not exceed $5 million.

- Tuition increases for an undergraduate student must not exceed 5% each year of the 2010-11 biennium. Federal stimulus money must be used to buy down the tuition increase to no more than 2% per year for these students.

- The bill exempts the AAS degree from the 60-semester credit length until July 2, 2012. By Jan. 2, 2010, MSCF and MSCSA must present a joint report to higher education committees on a process for reviewing the credit requirements for an AAS degree.

- The bill requires a bookstore located on a public college or university campus to only offer clothing manufactured in the U.S.

- The bill makes the selection process for the Board of Trustees the same as the University of Minnesota Regent selection - elected by the legislature.

- The bill provides for an undergraduate tuition guarantee - gurantees a stable tuition rate for up to four consecutive academic years.

The Senate Higher Education committee passed their version of the higher education omnibus bill out of committee yesterday afternoon. Next stop for the bill is the Senate Finance Committee Thursday. For a reminder of what is included in the bill, you may refer to the Government Relations Web site.

At the Capitol:

Legislative schedules are available for the House and Senate.

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