Updates from the Government Relations team are sent periodically during the legislative session.                                                  
Legislative Update - April 7, 2016
In the House Higher Education Policy and Finance committee this week
The House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee met Tuesday and Wednesday this week. On Tuesday, the committee took up a variety of bills, including a bill that would provide for an increase in the Minnesota State Grant program for some higher education students.   HF3733, a bill sponsored by Committee Chair Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, specifically reduces the assigned student responsibility (ASR) from 50 percent to 48.9 percent, and the assigned family responsibility (AFR) to 43 percent for independent students without children, 79 percent for independent students with children, and 89 percent for dependent students.   Minnesota’s State Grant program provides need-based financial aid to resident undergraduate students to attend a public or private postsecondary institution in Minnesota. State law requires grant awards to be based on a shared responsibility for paying for the recognized cost of attendance.   According to House Research, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education determines a student’s award amount according to a formula:  State Grant Amount = Cost of Attendance-ASR-AFR-Pell Grants   The components of this formula under current law are:
  • Cost of attendance is equal to the amount of tuition and fees up to a cap set by the Legislature each biennium plus an allowance for living and miscellaneous expenses (LME)
  • Assigned student responsibility (ASR) is at least 50 percent of the cost of attendance.
  • Assigned family responsibility (AFR) is the amount the FAFSA determines a student’s family should contribute toward the student’s education. For the purposes of the state grant, the family responsibility number determined by the FAFSA is multiplied by either 50 percent, 86 percent, or 96 percent for students who are independent, independent without children, or dependent.
  • The Pell Grant is the federal Pell grant amount for which a student is eligible.
While the bill currently does not have a fiscal note, there would be a significant cost to fund this change.  Paul Cerkvenik, President of the Minnesota Private College Council, said the bill would cost approximately $25 million, a number the Office of Higher Education estimated. The committee approved the bill and laid it over for possible inclusion in their higher education omnibus bill.

The committee also heard HF3371, sponsored by Chair Nornes, that requests one-time funding of $400,000 (amended from $285,000) to develop a multi-campus online program for early childhood teacher preparation at the state universities who offer an early childhood education program in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

Layna Cole with Minnesota State University Moorhead testified that there is a teacher shortage in the state and said it’s hard to find quality early childhood education teachers in greater Minnesota. She said state universities that offer early childhood education are coming together to develop an online program to make sure all people in the state can access a baccalaureate program.

June Reineke with Winona State University informed committee members that there’s a growing concern of accessibility of licensed, well-trained teachers. She said building a consortium program would allow the individual programs at each post-secondary institution to come together and draw on the different expertise and put forward the best and brightest ideas from each institution.

Steve Reuter with Minnesota State University, Mankato said it’s been hard for students to obtain an early childhood education degree without driving long distances, or giving up a job and relocating. Under the program, early childhood education faculty members from the state universities would work together to transition from best practices in the classroom to an online model.

The bill, as amended, was laid over for possible inclusion in the higher education omnibus bill.

Yesterday, the committee continued to hear bills as they work to meet the committee deadlines. HF3601, sponsored by Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, was presented before the committee. The 2013 Legislature established a tax credit for businesses in greater Minnesota that hire postsecondary students to participate in paid internships. To receive the credit an employer needed to sign a written agreement with a postsecondary institution establishing the parameters of the internship. The Office of Higher Education (OHE) allocated the credits to eligible institutions on a first-come, first-served basis. This bill would repeal the tax credit provided through the program and replace it with a grant program administered by OHE. Nekey Oliver with the Office of Higher Education testified that the committee would need to decide how much money to appropriate to the program before the grant amounts could be determined. Bill author Rep. Norton explained that there is money in the general fund remaining from the program that was not spent. The bill, as amended, was laid over for possible inclusion in the higher education omnibus bill.

Committee members also heard HF3526, a bill introduced by Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, that appropriates funds to MnSCU for a pilot program that promotes the adoption of open-source textbooks. The pilot programs should focus on the review, creation, and promotion of new or existing open textbooks and on saving money for students while meeting the academic needs of faculty. Under the measure, funds are also appropriated to MnSCU to expand and promote the open textbook library to faculty across the state. More information regarding the open textbook library can be found at: http://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/. MnSCU has been investing in open educational resource pilot programs already at many of their institutions. More information regarding the program can be at: http://asa.mnscu.edu/educationalinnovations/open/.

Minnesota State College Student Association Vice President Tim St. Claire testified in support of the bill and told members that one way for students to graduate faster with less debt, is to address the high cost of textbooks on students. St. Clair said MnSCU has done great work already in this area, but the bill would allow the program to grow, provide more exposure to the program and ultimately save money for students.   Minnesota State University Student Association Chair Cara Luebke, and student at Winona State University also testified in support of the bill and shared with committee members that she has seen classmates take many different approaches to save money on textbooks, including choosing to pay for rent or buy a textbook, renting books or sharing them with groups of students. Luebke said she believes the high cost of textbooks can be a barrier to students, but said this spending can be reduced through open-source textbooks. This bill was also laid over as the committee works to put together their omnibus bill.

On Tuesday, Brian Yolitz, associate vice chancellor for facilities and Bill Maki, president of Northeast Higher Education District presented to the Senate Capital Investment committee on asset preservation. MnSCU's 2016 HEAPR request is $110 million and funds nearly 90 projects at each of our colleges and universities, improving conditions on 50 campuses.

The blue dots in the graphic represent campuses with planned HEAPR  work within the request. The blue dots with black highlights reflect campuses where major capital projects are included in our bonding request.

MnSCU 2016 HEAPR request
This week at the Capitol

Thursday, April 7  

8:30 a.m.
Senate E-12 Budget Division
Room: 2412 Minnesota Senate Building
Chair: Sen. Charles W. Wiger
Agenda: S.F. 3125-Pappas: Sanneh foundation grant for year-round mentoring and tutoring services for low-performing and chronically absent students appropriation.

S.F. 2287-Kent: Minnesota children's museum appropriation.
S.F. 3276-Johnson, A.: Struggling students in grades 3 to 5 help to read at grade level pilot project establishment and appropriation.
S.F. 3428-Johnson, A.: Early childhood family education (ECFE) home visiting revenue program establishment and home visiting levy modification.
S.F. 3196-Wiklund: Outdoor Place-Based Education Act. - scs3196a-2 (PDF)
S.F. 2392-Clausen: Intermediate school districts and school cooperatives serving certain children with disabilities staff development funding authorization and appropriation.

S.F. 2545-Bonoff: Charter schools cash flow adjustment modification.
S.F. 2370-Bonoff: Southwest Minnesota State University special education teacher program establishment and appropriation.
S.F. 2463-Latz: Community education revenue program funding and minimum population
guarantee increases.  

8:30 a.m.
Senate Health and Human Services Budget Division
Room: 1200 Minnesota Senate Building
Chair: Sen. Tony Lourey
Agenda: SF 2755 (Dibble) Homeless youth act appropriation.
SF2468 (Clausen) Primary care and mental health professions clinical training expansion grant program establishment and appropriation.
SF3049 (Jensen) Minnesota initiative foundations appropriation.
SF2762 (Franzen) Integrated behavioral health care coordination model pilot project establishment.
SF2541 (Lourey) MinnesotaCare provisions modifications.
SF2552 (Sheran) Health care providers and hospitals tax repeal elimination; health care access fund money use clarification; provider primary care payment rates increase authorization.
SF2497 (Hayden) Medical assistance (MA) and MinnesotaCare continuous eligibility establishment.
SF2984 (Hayden) Crisis nursery services appropriation.
SF2422 (Hayden) Low-income uninsured adults and children ineligible for medical assistance (MA) or MinnesotaCare health care program establishment.  

12:45 p.m.
House Education Finance
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Jenifer Loon
Agenda:  HF3066 (Erickson) Early childhood and prekindergarten through grade 12 education, including general education, education excellence, charter schools, special education, facilities and technology, and sufficiency and lifelong learning provided.
HF3813 (Loon) - Governor's Supplemental Education Finance Recommendation
HF718 (Loon) - General education revenue definition clarified.

12:45 p.m.
House Capital Investment
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Paul Torkelson
Agenda: HF2970 (Vogel) Debt limit established.

2:00 p.m.
Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Budget Division
Room: 1100 Minnesota Senate Building
Chair: Sen. Terri Bonoff
S.F. 2492-Dahle: Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) and University of Minnesota (U of M) tuition freeze requirement.
S.F. 2484-Dahle: Higher education state grant amount and availability increase.
S.F. 3219-Clausen: Higher education state grant amounts calculation regulation.
S.F. 3164-Eken: Greater Minnesota internship modification, grant program establishment and appropriation.
S.F. 3170-Eken: Senior care career opportunities educational materials development appropriation.
S.F. 3346-Bonoff: College attendance grant program intervention broadening and appropriation

4:00 p.m.
House in Session  

5:00 p.m.
House Ways and Means
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Jim Knoblach
Agenda: Budget Resolution
HF1495 (Green) State Patrol trooper funding provided, and money appropriated.
HF1346 (Moran) St. Paul; I-94 bridge designated as John Alleman Memorial Bridge.
HF3548 (Norton) Special transportation service provider regulations and penalties amended, and nonemergency medical transportation provider requirements related to background studies set.
HF3067 (Kelly) Transportation Department administered and governing provisions modified, and legislative route removed.

Important Links:

  • Most recent bill introductions related to higher education (compiled by Government Relations team) SPREADSHEET (updated 4/7/16)
  • Committee schedules can be found HERE
  • Many committee hearings and floor sessions are streamed live via the web or broadcast on television. More information and a schedule can be found HERE

Government Relations team:

Jaime Simonsen – Jaime.simonsen@so.mnscu.edu
Bernie Omann – Bernie.omann@so.mnscu.edu
Jim Grathwol – jim.grathwol@so.mnscu.edu