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Higher education policy changes

Published (6/1/2010)
By Nick Busse
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A cash cushion for the state’s largest student financial aid program, a pilot project for depositing cash into local banks, and easier credit transfers are among provisions of a new law.

Sponsored by Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) and Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul), the law comprises a variety of mostly small changes to higher education policies. Unless otherwise noted, it takes effect Aug. 1, 2010.

The law will allow the Office of Higher Education to hold back 5 percent of state grant funds to manage uncertainty in the level of demand based on possible enrollment or income changes among applicants. Student demand for state grant money has greatly exceeded available funds in the last year, and the office asked for the language to help avoid running out of money.

After grant awards are made for fiscal year 2011, the remaining funds will be distributed to increase the living and miscellaneous expense allowance for students, under the provision.

The law will also establish a pilot project whereby MnSCU schools can choose to deposit some of their cash reserves in small, local community banks. The goal of the project is to facilitate increased small-business lending by moving some of MnSCU’s money out of large financial institutions and into local banks. Up to eight colleges and universities may be selected for the project, if they apply.

Another provision directs MnSCU to improve its credit transfer system to make it easier for students to carry credits with them from one institution to another.

Other selected changes in the law include:

• changing MnSCU’s stated base funding level for the 2012-2013 biennium to line up with the official forecast;

• authorizing a surgical technologist training and employment pilot project and report to the Legislature;

• directing MnSCU’s central office to streamline its services and expenditures where possible;

• a study on possible changes to technical education programs that could put students to work quicker;

• requiring MnSCU schools to make a “reasonable attempt” to identify and purchase Minnesota foods;

• requiring the University of Minnesota to study ethical issues involved in nanotechnology research; and

• directing the university’s area health education centers to conduct public education on the potential impacts of federal health care reform.

HF871/ SF184*/CH364

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