Thursday, February 17, 2011

Students testify on tuition; schedules posted

Yesterday at the Capitol

College and university students spent the day at the Capitol yesterday educating lawmakers about student issues, including tuition. A bill that would freeze tuition for the 2012-2013 biennium was heard in the Senate Higher Education committee yesterday, and students and faculty spoke to the bill. Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, explained his bill and said the state cannot continue to balance the budget on the backs of students. Carlson explained that SF 268 addresses the short-term impact of tuition increases and provides guidance for Minnesota families.

Minnesota State University Student Association Chair Andrew Spaeth told committee members that in 1980, the state funded 80 percent of higher education costs, today that number is more in the area of 50 percent. Spaeth said he's concerned with the debt load of students and said the average student is graduating with $26,000 in debt.

Also testifying was Travis Johnson, President of the Minnesota State College Student Association, or MSCSA. Johnson said he is concerned about the pattern of rapidly increasing tuition rates. Geoff Dittberner, Vice President of MSCSA said he believes the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees is sincere in their desire to keep tuition low. He said in 2003 when the system's budget was reduced by $191 million, the cut was made up in tuition increases which still have a negative consequence on students today. Dittberner said students are willing to be part of the solution, but not the entire solution. He said while they cannot fully support a tuition freeze as the bill proposes, they would like to work with the committee to impose a tuition cap.

Russ Stanton with the Inter Faculty Association, or IFO, also spoke to the tuition freeze bill and said the IFO has always been an advocate of low tuition and affordable higher education, but state funding has not kept up with enrollment growth or inflation. He said the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system is highly efficient and the cost of delivering instruction is among the lowest in the nation. Stanton said faculty are doing their share with a negotiated salary freeze for two years during the last contract negotiations. He said the IFO opposes setting tuition rates in the political arena, but would rather leave the Board of Trustees with the flexibility to make tuition decisions.

The bill was laid over for possible consideration in the omnibus bill. There is no companion bill in the House.

Today at the Capitol

8:15 AM
House Education Reform
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Sondra Erickson
Agenda: HF355 (Kiffmeyer) Home school mandates reduced, and superintendents relieved of reporting requirements.
HF511 (Erickson) Public school unneeded mandates removed.
Please note that the agenda has been updated to include the last bill's number

8:30 AM
Senate Finance
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Claire A. Robling
Presentation of Governor Dayton's Budget - Commissioner Jim Schowalter, Minnesota Management and Budget

10:15 AM
House Government Operations and Elections
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Joyce Peppin
Agenda: HF52 (Peppin) City, county, and town zoning control and ordinance variances provided.
HF305 (Persell) Northern Township detached facility authorized.
HF281 (Carlson) State primary election returns canvassing time increased.

11:00 AM
Senate in Session

12:30 PM
House Higher Education Policy and Finance
Room: Basement Hearing Room, State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Bud Nornes
Agenda: Office of Higher Education:
Governor Dayton's Proposed Budget for Higher Education
Detailed Discussion of Agency's Organization and Finances

12:30 PM
House Education Finance
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Pat Garofalo
Agenda: Testimony from:
Minnesota High Tech Association
Minnesota Department of Education

1:00 PM
Senate Agriculture and Rural Economies
Room: 107 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Doug Magnus
Budget Overview (Minnesota Department of Agriculture)

3:00 PM
House in Session

Looking Ahead

Monday, February 21

10:15 AM
House Ways and Means
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Mary Liz Holberg
HF103 (Murray) Unemployment insurance eligibility and extension provisions modified
Presentation of Gov. Dayton's Budget - Commissioner Jim Schowalter, Minnesota Management & Budget

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