Before we get to legislative business, Joyce and I wish you and your family a happy Thanksgiving. Sometimes we get so caught up in day-to-day events that we forget just how good we have it in our beautiful state and region.
I attended the Midwestern Higher Education Compact's annual meeting in Chicago this week. The MHEC is a 12-state interstate assembly that works together to advance higher education.
Part of my duty as Minnesota's commissioner on this panel is to provide an update of our higher education systems. I was proud as the House's higher ed. chairman to tell the group about legislation we passed this year that provides the first tuition reduction in recent history for some institutions, freezes tuition at others and increases funds for our state grant program. By comparison, representatives of other states said they are happy if they can merely cap tuition increases at 3 percent.
One of the most interesting discussions at the conference pertained to our College in the Schools program which has been in the news of late. College in the Schools is a good program that works very well in our state, allowing high school students to take dual-credit college courses. This saves students time and money in achieving their educational goals.
The issue is the Higher Learning Commission, a regional accreditation group serving 19 states, recently set a new policy requiring teachers to have a master's degree or graduate-level credits in the subjects they teach. This would make many teachers ineligible to instruct these classes, jeopardizing the future of the program – especially in Greater Minnesota.
We had an open and frank discussion on this subject at the conference. No decisions were made regarding the course of action, but there do seem to be some second thoughts over the new policy, so stay tuned as we work on solutions.
On a different subject, I am hearing concern over a potential influx of Syrian refugees with unrest elsewhere in the world. This comes after House Republicans championed an initiative this year to combat the recruitment of Minnesotans by terrorist organizations such as ISIS. The governor signed it into law.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt sent a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton this week, urging him to call on President Obama to halt acceptance of refugees from Syria until the U.S. Department of Homeland Security completes a full review of security procedures and clearances. Click here for the full text.
It is important to note governors do not have the power to keep refugees out of their states, the reason the letter is a request for Dayton to call on Obama to act. Governors from many other states already have made similar pleas.
I will pass along more as things develop on these and other issues. Until then, have a happy Thanksgiving and please be careful if you travel.