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Stability for tuition and fees

Published (3/28/2008)
By Mike Cook
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A House plan would reduce funding to the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, but not as much as the governor requests.

The plan is one part of the $22.99 million in supplemental budget recommendations approved March 25 by the House Higher Education and Work Force Development Policy and Finance Division. Approved one day later by the House Education Finance and Economic Competitiveness Finance Division, the bill was incorporated March 27 by the House Finance Committee into the supplemental budget bill (HF1812).

In his budget deficit recommendations, Gov. Tim Pawlenty seeks a $27.2 million operating budget reduction at the university and $26.6 million at MnSCU. The House plan calls for a $6.17 million reduction for both higher education entities. An amendment successfully offered by Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia), the division chairman, and sponsor of HF3722, prohibits the raising of student fees or tuition beyond what is planned for next year to make up the difference.

Due to an increase in the federal Pell Grant, the bill calls for a decrease in the student share of their collegiate costs from 46 percent to 44.5 percent, at a cost to the state of $11.25 million. The student share is one factor used to calculate the value of a state grant. This came from HF1142, sponsored by Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights).

The division agreed with the governor on an $111,000 operating budget reduction for the Office of Higher Education.

However, the division reduced $7 million from the governor’s Achieve Scholarship program, which encourages low-income students to take rigorous high school courses in exchange for $1,200 in college funding.

But the division allocated $3.8 million for the Power of YOU program, which covers postsecondary enrollment costs not covered by grants for Minneapolis or St. Paul public high school graduates that attend one of three institutions, and $200,000 for a pilot program to recruit and subsidize the education of students of color who enroll in teacher education programs at public four-year institutions. Those bills (HF3794 and HF3885) are sponsored by Rep. Lyndon Carlson (DFL-Crystal) and Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester), respectively.

Rep. Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls) unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill to keep the $4 million in the Achieve Scholarship program, while eliminating money for the other two programs, including the creation of pilot programs for rural and suburban Power of You sites.

“Achieve is a statewide program in its infancy,” he said. “The students are just getting involved, and to take funding away seems very unfair. … Next year when we have the entire budget in front of us we can maybe look at a way to do all that.”

“Basically the Achieve program became a resume builder for somebody running for higher office,” Rukavina said.

Also in the bill is HF3014, sponsored by Rep. Larry Hosch (DFL-St. Joseph), which would change eligibility for a student loan forgiveness program for health professionals, so the minimum teaching requirement would be 12 credit hours per week, or 720 hours per year. The current requirement is at least 20 hours per week.

A companion bill, SF3471, sponsored by Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm), awaits action by the Senate Economic Development Budget Division.

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