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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michelle (Shelly) Christensen (DFL)

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Rep. Christensen votes for compromise Higher Education budget

Sunday, June 20, 2021

St. Paul, MN. – Last night, the Minnesota House of Representatives advanced the compromise higher education budget bill. House DFLers negotiated with the Republican-led Senate with a goal of using limited resources to protect students from rising costs, while also keeping Minnesota institutions vibrant and competitive, and shrinking racial and economic opportunity gaps in higher education. State Representative Shelly Christensen (DFL - Stillwater) served on the bicameral working group that crafted the final legislation. 

“The compromise we reached with our final higher education budget makes investments to ensure our students can recover from the unprecedented challenges they’ve faced over the past year,” said Rep. Christensen. “In our negotiations for this bill, we advocated for provisions prioritizing support for our students, making college more equitable, and laying the groundwork for Minnesotans to thrive in the post-pandemic workforce - and that’s what we’re delivering.”

The bipartisan higher education budget funds the Office of Higher Education (OHE), the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MinnState), the University of Minnesota campuses, and the Mayo Clinic Medical School. Significantly, it makes investments into the State Grant program that will impact more than 75,000 students and expand access to nearly 3,000 grant applicants. Additionally, within the budget agreement is a new "fostering independence" grant program to fund up to five years of college for students raised in foster care.

The higher education budget contains several equity provisions to ensure all Minnesotans can prosper. It prioritizes financial support via scholarships for people of color and American Indians studying to become teachers, which is an important tool in helping to close the opportunity gap in Minnesota. The bill also contains updates to align the American Indian Scholarship program with other Office of Higher Education scholarship programs that will qualify students for summer term awards and help them graduate faster with less debt. House DFLers prevailed with the inclusion of the new Direct Admissions Minnesota pilot program, which will focus on removing barriers for low-income and students of color entering college by increasing enrollment opportunities.

In response to student testimony about their challenges this year and the need for more direct support for student health and wellness, the bill has investments in mental health resources, addresses food insecurity on our college campuses, supports z-degrees to help reduce the cost of textbooks and course materials for students, and contains emergency grant assistance to meet food, housing, and transportation needs.

Among other items, the budget also includes:

-Funding for Underrepresented Teacher Grants

-U of M Natural Resources Research Institute Funding Increase
-Enhanced Student Transcript Access
-Student Transfer Report
-SELF-Loan Cap Increase
-Risk Analysis for Financially Struggling Schools
-College Possible Increase and Report
-Small Campus Aid Increase
-Childcare Grant Maximums
-Concurrent Enrollment Updates
-Basic Needs Hub Requirements


The bill language is available here. The spreadsheet can be found here. A video recording of today’s floor debate is available on the House Public Information YouTube channel.

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