Monday, July 26, 2010

Debate Minnesota Promotes Civility in Politics: DFL Primary Gubernatorial Debate

A Primary Gubernatorial Debate between Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Senator Mark Dayton, and Matt Entenza will be held on, Friday, July 30th, in Ostrander Auditorium, Centennial Student Union at Minnesota State University Mankato, 620 South Road, Mankato, MN 56001, at 7:00PM.

The Debate Minnesota Foundation mission is to:

• Promote civility in the political process
• Provide a platform for a fair, informative and in-depth discussion of ideas
• Encourage public participation in the election process
• Help restore public confidence in government by raising the level of political discourse

The famous Lincoln-Douglas debates during the 1858 Illinois Senatorial election were the inspiration for the Debate Minnesota mission. That year, the public square became an opportunity to exchange ideas and ideals, and a platform for the people to shape the country.

Debate Minnesota 2004 hosted 19 debates in 19 districts around the state to wide acclaim and in 2006 hosted the U. S. Senate, 3 Congressional, the Gubernatorial race and 10 Minnesota Legislative district race debates. In 2008 Debate Minnesota hosted 3 U.S. Senate Debates, and 2 Congressional Debates and 3 legislative race debates.

Debate Minnesota is a non-profit foundation led by a multi-partisan board of director which includes former U.S. Senator David Durenberger; former Governor Al Quie; former Senate Majority Leader Roger D. Moe; former Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum; former Minnesota State Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey III; former State Senators Roy W. Terwilliger and Sheila Kiscaden; former Minnesota Secretary of State Joan Anderson Growe; and Debate Minnesota Founder Will Haddeland.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Two new laws will go into effect/ impact higher education

Colleges and universities will be able to notify parents in cases where a student has a mental health emergency.

Federal and state law allows higher education institutions to disclose what would otherwise be private data when a student has a “safety emergency” that warrants contacting their parents. A new law will clarify that mental health emergencies, such as suicide attempts or psychotic episodes, qualify under the law.

Rep. Andy Welti (DFL-Plainview), who sponsors the law with Sen. Sharon Erickson Ropes (DFL-Winona), said the National Alliance on Mental Illness brought the proposal forward. He said if a student is injured in a car accident or receives a physical injury, colleges and universities can notify parents; however, some parents are concerned that mental health emergencies do not meet the current threshold.

The law does not involve disclosure of medical records — only the right to disclose that an emergency has taken place.


Broadband for everyone

Minnesota intends to provide every resident the ability to access high-speed broadband Internet service by 2015.

A new law makes high-speed broadband Internet for every home and business an official state goal. In addition, it calls for a boost in broadband speeds: 10 to 20 megabits per second for downloads and five to 10 megabits per second for uploads.

Sponsored by Rep. Sheldon Johnson (DFL-St. Paul) and Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon (DFL-Duluth), the law also specifies three other goals for Minnesota’s broadband access. It states that Minnesota should be in:

• “the top five states of the United States for broadband speed universally accessible to residents and businesses”;

• “the top five states for broadband access”; and

• “the top 15 when compared to countries globally for broadband penetration.”

The law stems from the work of the Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force, which spent two years researching a strategy for deploying broadband Internet service throughout the state.

Also included in the law is a provision requiring the Department of Commerce to report annually to the Legislature on progress made toward meeting the state’s broadband goals.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Appropriations bill moves; Financial aid changes explained; Federal reports available; Veterans legislation introduced

U.S. House passes supplemental appropriations bill, heads to Senate

Late last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a supplemental appropriations bill which provides funds for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and disaster relief. The House passed an amendment to the bill which includes funds to cover $4.95 billion of the Pell Grant shortfall and $10 billion to help save K-12 education jobs; higher education was not included in this appropriation.

Unspent funding for programs including Race to the Top, the Public School Charter and the Teacher Incentive Fund programs were rescinded and savings were applied to off-set the cost for the Pell Grant shortfall. Due to this, the White House has issued a veto threat.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration; however, the Senate is not expected to take up the legislation before July 13, when Congress returns from Independence Day recess. The summer recess for Congress has been moved up one week to begin August 2.

Federal financial aid changes

Chris Halling, system director for student financial aid, has prepared an update regarding the changes to federal financial aid programs. One of those changes includes direct lending. All new student loans for loan periods beginning after July 1, 2010 are being made through the Federal Direct Loan Program. Halling reports that the transition seems to have been relatively simple since most of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities institutions have already been making Direct Loans and have offered assistance to those who are new to the program. It remains unclear until the start of fall semester if the U.S. Department of Education will be able to handle the increased volume.

Starting no later than summer 2011, two major changes will be made to the Pell Grant program; a student may receive two scheduled awards within a single award year if they attend fall, spring and summer terms; and the summer award must be calculated twice using both the current year formula and student information and the upcoming year formula and student information. The student must be given the larger of the two awards.

Other changes include the discontinuation of the Academic Competitiveness Grant and SMART (Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent) grant programs as of June 30, 2011; all schools are required to develop, publish, administer and enforce a code of conduct with respect to Title IV student loans; and all schools are required to post a "Net Price Calculator" on their web site by Oct. 29, 2011 to provide potential students with information on school costs and basic financial aid.

Federal reports available online

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities has released a new policy brief entitled, State Outlook: Fiscal and State Policy Issues Affecting Postsecondary Education. The brief provides an overview of fiscal conditions and higher education issues forming state policy, including a review of state economic conditions and budget outlook; state budget pressures; state budget realignment strategies; employment and the higher education premium; recessionary impacts on state higher education finance, policy and programs; recessionary impacts on higher education institutions; and other higher education state policy issues in the mix. You may view the report here.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has issued a report on state funding for higher education for fiscal years 2009 and 2010. The report provides a comparison of higher education spending across states and provides an impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act , or ARRA, funds on state higher education spending. The report can be found here.

Veteran legislation introduced

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, introduced S. 3447, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010. The bill is scheduled to be heard in committee July 21.

The bill includes expanding eligibility under the Post-9/11 GI Bill to National Guard and Reserve members serving full-time under Section 502(f) of Title 32 in response to a national emergency. The bill also changes the Post-9/11 GI Bill definition of "institution of higher learning" to allow those institutions currently excluded (i.e., vocational institutions and other non-collegiate institutions) to receive benefits under the bill.

The bill proposes removing the tuition and fee benefit charts for each state and creating a new metric for benefit eligibility. Veterans enrolled at public institutions would receive up to the established charges for the program in which they were enrolled; veterans enrolled at private for-profit and not-for-profit institutions would receive the lesser of either the established charges for their program of study or a newly created national average.

The bill also adds an additional monthly stipend and housing allowance for on-the-job training; adds a new payment category for programs taken exclusively via correspondence/online; and adds a new formula to calculate a books/supplies allowance for active duty service members.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Minnesota's ISEEK part of federal healthcare grant

American Association of Community Colleges to Spearhead Healthcare Virtual Career Platform

Washington D.C. - The U.S. Department of Labor today announced that the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) will receive a $6.6 million grant to fund development of Healthcare Virtual Career Platform (HVCP): Healthcare Career Central, an open-source delivery platform that will manage an individual’s entry into any of more than 200 healthcare careers – from career exploration, to skills assessment, training and job placement.

The initiative is part of a larger $14 million healthcare career grant package authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and builds on existing resources and new technology to set a new standard for career exploration and expand opportunities for healthcare careers.

Key partners in the initiative include the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) and National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) to link to the public workforce system. Other partners include the American Council on Education, Direct Employers Association, Jobs for the Future, and XPAND and Minnesota’s ISEEK (Internet System for Education and Employment Knowledge). The American Dental Education Association’s “Explore Health Careers” will provide technical assistance from an existing database of 120 health occupations. In addition, the Department of Defense and ed2go, a division of Cengage Learning, will provide initial learning content.

The initiative also will engage many of the nation’s close to 1,200 community colleges, which currently educate more than 60% of healthcare professionals in the U.S.

“This grant will provide a wealth of resources and opportunities for persons interested in learning about and training for careers in the health care field, a high growth area in America’s job market,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “AACC was competitively selected to receive this grant because of their strong proposal, which includes upcoming online career guidance tools and lifelong training services that will benefit workers and trainees for years to come.”

The platform will contain two major innovations – a Learning Exchange and a Career Management Account designed to gather information on courses needed to pursue a healthcare career, deliver online content, track ongoing career progress, and provide job match information.

AACC’s Center for Workforce and Economic Development aims to connect workers with education and jobs in local communities. Within the Center, AACC’s newly established Health Professions Education Center will focus efforts to address the nation’s health care workforce needs, including working with communities to develop educational pathways to match displaced workers with health care jobs.

In addition to helping to address the nation’s persistently high unemployment rate, the initiative is designed to overcome growing shortages of healthcare professionals. Healthcare professional and technical occupations rank as the fifth largest cluster and will provide the seventh largest share of job openings over the next decade, according to a study released this month by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, entitled Help Wanted Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018. The study notes that healthcare occupations will provide an estimated 2.8 million job openings over the next eight years.

“We believe this initiative supports and leverages the continued commitment of our colleges and partners to educate and place a diverse group of students and workers. This new resource dramatically increases our ability to effectively and efficiently channel them into productive healthcare careers,” said George R. Boggs, president of the American Association of Community Colleges.

A comprehensive health care careers advisory group composed of representatives from various health care professions, including health care employers, health care education associations and state/local public health officials will support the project.