Friday, February 10, 2012

MnSCU Legislative Update Feb 6-10


On Thursday Lobby Corps members from Southwest State University and MSU-Moorhead visited the Capitol. The group met with staff people from the House and Senate Higher Ed Committees as well as the House Capital Investment lead staff person. Both groups also met with their local State Representatives and Senator. The trip was very successful as both students were able to advocate for prioritized HEAPR funding, opposition to the photo ID constitutional amendment amongst other things. The students did a great job clearly explaining our stance on the important issues facing students.

MnSCU Legislative Update:

This week in Washington, there has been much talk about President Obama’s State of the Union address last month in which he challenged colleges and universities to strive to make college attainable for all Americans. Following the speech, Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Michigan with the message that the public sees higher education as unaffordable. Obama is scheduled to release his 2013 budget next Monday, Feb. 13 and in it he will ask Congress to reform student aid to promote affordability and value. The President’s reforms will include shifting aid away from colleges that fail to keep net tuition down, and toward those colleges and universities that work to keep tuition affordable, provide good value and serve needy students. Obama will propose creating a Race to the Top for college affordability and completion. The program will reward states who drive systemic change in their higher education policies and practices, while containing tuition. He will ask Congress to pass a College Scorecard for all degree-granting institutions, designed to provide essential information about college costs, graduation rates, and potential earnings in a format that will help students and families choose a college. Obama will also call on Congress to keep interest rates low for student loan borrowers to reduce future debt. These, and other initiatives Obama will propose aimed at keeping college affordable, can be found at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/01/27/fact-sheet-president-obama-s-blueprint-keeping-college-affordable-and-wi

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system gave a third bonding presentation to the Legislature this session, this time in the House Capital Investment committee on Wednesday afternoon. Committee members listened as Chancellor Steven Rosenstone and Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Brian Yolitz explained how the system’s request of $278 million ($222 million in state funding) will advance Minnesota’s workforce. Rosenstone told members that over the past decade, demand for programs at the colleges and universities has increased with enrollment up 15 percent. He said investment in the system’s facilities is necessary to keep pace with this demand.

Rosenstone said the colleges and universities are the place where not only traditional 19-year old students attend, but also working adults who come to complete certificates, two-year and four-year degrees and graduate programs. He said when people have been displaced from their jobs, want to update their skills or prepare for a new career, or when businesses need training for their employees, the system’s colleges and universities can meet those needs. “This is why we are uniquely positioned in terms of our impact on the state’s economy, and why investment in the upkeep and development of our facilities is so critical to the state’s prosperity,” Rosenstone said.

Following the presentation, there was discussion with committee members about aging facilities, specifically campus roofs. Members expressed concern for keeping up with the asset preservation needs on campus. Yolitz explained to the committee that the individual campuses prioritize their HEAPR needs based on what’s most urgent, whether that’s a roof, a boiler, or crumbling steps at the entrance of a building.

The House Capital Investment committee will hear from multiple organizations with bonding needs before putting together a bill likely mid-March. Chair Larry Howes, R-Walker, said he wants to wait until after the February Forecast is released Feb. 29 before deciding how big the bill will be. The system will present the bonding request to the Senate Capital Investment committee next; however, a date is yet to be determined.

In the Senate Higher Education committee on Wednesday, Minnesota Office of Higher Education Director Larry Pogemiller was confirmed unanimously by committee members. His confirmation will be sent to the Senate floor.

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