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Higher ed negotiators find compromise, OKs conference report

The omnibus higher education conference committee has reached consensus on how best to spend an additional $20 million in the current biennium.

Conferees approved the report on HF3872 late Thursday on a cumulative 9-1 vote, and it is expected to be before the House and Senate Friday. Rep. Marion O'Neill (R-Maple Lake) was the lone vote against.

Rep. Connie Bernardy (DFL-New Brighton), who sponsors the bill with Sen. David Tomassoni (I-Chisholm), wishes it had more money to invest, particular to bring down tuition costs and help students remain debt-free upon graduation, but she remained proud.

“It is student centered,” she said, adding that it focuses on student parents, students with intellectual disabilities, and tribal colleges. “Every student should have the opportunity to succeed.”

The agreement would provide more than $8.8 million for the Office of Higher Education to support various grant programs to help students who are parents, underrepresented student teachers, and for workforce development.

Included in that amount is $3 million in onetime money for a program to recruit and train students to become certified nursing assistants, $1 million each to three tribal colleges for general operations and maintenance; and $1 million to Owatonna Learn to Earn Coalition help the Owatonna and Steele County region grow and retain a talented workforce, and conduct a comprehensive local needs assessment to examine current and future workforce needs in the region.

The bill would provide about $8.2 million for Minnesota State, of which $4.25 million is for workforce development scholarships, $3.1 million is to maintain campus operations, and $800,000 is for the Allied Health technician scholarship program.

The University of Minnesota would receive $3 million: $2 million for the Natural Resources Research Institute and $1 million to expand the Promise Program to support students with financial needs, including historically underrepresented students.

[MORE: View the spreadsheet, agreement summary]

To establish an Inclusive Higher Education Technical Assistance Center pilot project, $500,000 is appropriated. The project aims to increase access to higher education for students with intellectual disabilities. The bill would also provide $75,000 to expand Hunger-Free Campus Grant programs to nonprofit private postsecondary institutions.

Other policy includes:

  • requiring an affirmative consent standard in the sexual harassment and sexual violence policies of postsecondary institutions;
  • requiring institutions to train students on the affirmative consent standard;
  • prohibiting Minnesota State schools from placing students in developmental education courses based on testing alone;
  • adding a requirement for the governor’s consideration in making appointments to the Minnesota State Board of Trustees;
  • changing the current composition of the Regent Candidate Advisory Council to include 10 legislators, five current faculty members (one from each campus) and the five student body presidents; and
  • requiring at least one member of the Board of Regents from each congressional district.

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