The House and Senate higher education committees hosted a joint hearing this week to address issues pertaining to the College in the Schools program, which allows high school students to take dual-credit college courses.
This is a popular program throughout the state, but the Higher Learning Commission, a regional accreditation group serving 19 states, recently announced it would step up enforcement of existing rules regarding qualifications for teachers of college courses. The upshot is many high school teachers would no longer qualify to teach dual-credit courses and thousands of students would not have access to this program.
Some legislators advocate urging the HLC to reverse or modify its recent action or provide flexibility. They call the HLC's order overreach by the board and I agree with that notion. The big question is what we do with a board that has holds the accreditation hammer over the heads of schools as it demands compliance.
There is legislation in an omnibus tax bill which passed the House this year that would incentivize teachers to attain a master's degree in their licensure field by providing tax credits. That provision could help address this issue, but the tax bill it is in was not enacted and officially remains on hold in a conference committee.
This situation is developing and Thursday's hearing was beneficial in getting people up to speed as we discuss solutions. Thanks to all the students, parents, educators and others for providing good input during what was a very well attended meeting. Stay tuned for more news as things unfold.
On another education note, I continue traveling around the state in my role as House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee chairman. My goal is to view facilities and to hear from students and faculty to learn more about their thoughts, ideas and concerns regarding our state's system.
I am hearing people are quite pleased with tuition breaks we passed into law this year. There is a tuition freeze in 2016 and a 1-percent tuition reduction in 2017 for two-year MnSCU students, along with a tuition freeze in 2017 at four-year MnSCU schools.
One thing that warrants examination, however, is determining how we could provide more funding stability to our smaller two-year schools in order to insulate them from budgetary implications that result from varying enrollment numbers. Schools in Greater Minnesota are more susceptible to these impacts and I look forward to discussing ways we could tweak the formula to provide them with more flexibility in bridging gaps that occur.
Look for a complete roundup from the college tours after we complete them in the coming weeks.