Friday, March 30, 2012

MnSCU Legislative Update March 30

This week in Washington D.C., the House Budget Committee approved the fiscal year 2013 budget resolution last week, which sets broad overall spending policy. The budget resolution cuts discretionary spending by more than $1 trillion over 10 years below the Budget Control Act spending caps agreed to last summer. The House budget calls for a $19 billion reduction (2 percent) in discretionary funding in FY 2013, as well as reducing individual and corporate tax rates, increasing defense spending, and restructuring a number of large entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid.

The blueprint of the budget resolution makes a statement on education and job training, “Globalization and technological advances have made the modern economy more complex and dynamic. The new reality is workers at all levels must be ready to update or learn new, more specialized skills to match the changing needs of employers competing in the global economy. Federal higher education and job-training programs must be reformed to help workers adapt to this new challenge.” There is mention in the budget resolution that there is a need to put the Pell Grant program on a sustainable path.

The resolution will guide spending decisions to be made by the House Republican majority later this year, likely after the November election. Senate leadership has already announced they are not planning to pass a budget resolution this year, making the House legislation more a statement of policy. The House budget resolution is expected to go to the floor for a vote this week.

The House Ways and Means Committee took up the bonding bill and laid it over for further discussion and action. The bill includes $280 million in capital projects around the state, with $56 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU). Rep. Kathy Brynaert, DFL-Mankato, asked the author of the bill Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, how he determined the MnSCU projects that were included in the bill. Howes said he looked at the moderately priced projects so he could include as many projects on the MnSCU list as he could given the amount of the total bill.

Committee members also took up HF 2754, the State Capitol restoration bill for $221 million. Author of the bill, Rep. Howes, said the funding will be split up over four years, with $60 million for fiscal years 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, asked Howes if the full amount of $221 million can be staged over the four-year period to free up room for other projects. Carlson said, while restoration of the State Capitol is important, paying the full amount up front crowds out other needs, whether it’s higher education or other projects. Committee members passed the bill and sent it to the floor.

The Senate passed the voter identification bill off the floor on Friday by a vote of 36-30. The bill is different than the House version passed earlier in the week, so the House could either accept the Senate language or go to conference committee to work through the differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill. If a compromise is reached between the two bills and the full bodies pass them again, the question would be put to voters in the November election.

Author of the bill, Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said he believes some people are voting illegally and that the proposed constitutional amendment would stop that; however, opponents of the bill, said those fears have been blown out of proportion and that voter fraud is almost nonexistent. Opponents said there will be a negative impact; with thousands of people having trouble voting.

The Senate Capital Investment Committee met on Thursday and took up the $496 million bonding bill, which includes $127.028 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Included in the bill is $32 million for higher education asset preservation and replacement (HEAPR). The college and university projects include:

$13.389 million for the Minneapolis Community and Technical College workforce program renovation;

$13.851 million for Ridgewater College, Willmar technical instruction lab renovation;

$4.606 million for Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington renovation and addition;

$13.315 million for South Central College, Faribault classroom renovation and addition;

$0.980 million for Anoka Ramsey Community College, Coon Rapids bioscience and allied health addition;

$26.292 million for North Hennepin Community College bioscience and health careers center addition;

$0.500 million for Southwest Minnesota State University science lab renovation;

$1.5 million for Saint Paul College health and science center design;

$5 million for Century College academic partners classroom design and construction;

$7.230 million for Dakota County Technical College transportation and emerging technical lab renovation;

$2 million for the system wide STEM renovation;

$2.065 million for Minnesota State University, Mankato clinical science building design;

$4 million for St. Cloud Technical and Community College medium heavy truck and auto body addition and renovation; and

$0.300 million for Northland Community and Technical College aviation maintenance facility expansion

The Senate Finance Committee took up multiple bills on Thursday, including the bonding bill. Committee members also took up the higher education omnibus bill, and deleted sections 14 and 15 of the bill, which was the appropriation for leveraged equipment and workforce alignment for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Higher Education Committee Chair Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, testified that she would still like to see some funding for the leveraged equipment program included in a different bill. The committee adopted the bill and sent it to the Senate floor. The House higher education omnibus bill is scheduled to be heard in the Ways and Means Committee Monday.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012 MSUSA Lobby Corps Highlights

The Minnesota State University Student Association (MSUSA) Lobby Corps efforts this session have been very active and effective. We have had visits with each campus to the Capitol or intense lobbying efforts on the campus of all of our schools. We have met with numerous legislators, the Secretary of State and staff to discuss the major issues of the 2012 session.

Here are some highlights from 2012 Lobby Corps visits:
  1. Students from St. Cloud State worked with Rep. King Banaian to draft changes to current law on textbook notification and a MnSCU Textbook Work Group. The legislation will ultimately lead to students having more information on alternative methods to purchase required texts and bringing down overall textbook costs.
  2. Students from Bemidji State asked Sen. John Carlson to be the lead Senate author for the textbook legislation and completed two trips to the Capitol.
  3. Students from Winona worked hard to get Sen. Jeremy Miller to oppose the constitutional amendment to the voter ID requirement. He was the lone member of the majority to vote against the proposed amendment on the floor. WSU President Jack Linehan also testified in front of the House Taxes Committee for the Greater MN Internship Tax Credit proposal. His testimony helped the bill gain a lot of support and with a few tweaks the proposal was included in the House Taxes final bill.
  4. MSU-Moorhead students have completed two trips to the Capitol this session and played in an important role in the voter ID debate as well as the higher ed bills. MSU-Moorhead students met with Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to discuss the alternatives to voter ID that would both show someone's identity before they cast a ballot as well as preserve same-day registration.
  5. Metro State students met with each member of the Senate Higher Ed Committee on their visit to the Capitol and pushed the textbook legislation as well as the increase in MnSCU's revenue fund authority so they could complete two veryimportant projects on their campus; the new parking structure and a student center.
  6. Southwest State students completed two very important trips to St. Paul this year. First, they got to meet with their local legislators and get them to push the Chairs of Capital Investment on the importance of HEAPR funds and spoke to specific projects on the SMSU campus that are in dire need of repair. On the second trip they got to watch the debate of the House higher ed omnibus bill which turned into a very contentious debate over proper committee rules and the minorities role in the process.
  7. MSU-Mankato students visited with legislators from all across the state as part of a "Mankato Day at the Capitol." The students got to voice the importance of local bonding projects and the out of control textbook costs they are seeing on their campus.
We have a few more trips planned during 2012 and are hoping that one final push is all we need to get some of our legislative objectives passed into law.

Friday, March 23, 2012

MnSCU Legislative Update 3/23 -- Higher Ed Omnibus Bills Passed Out of Committees

On Thursday the House Higher Education Policy and Finance committee took up the higher education omnibus bill and after two recesses and mark-up, approved it and sent it to the Ways and Means Committee. The bill amends the membership of the Student Advisory Council to include an additional student from the University of Minnesota. Language on textbooks is included that provides for a Minnesota State Colleges and Universities textbook work group. Also in the bill is the continuing operations language which would allow the colleges and universities access to their cash in the event of a government shutdown, and the bill includes an increase in the revenue fund authority from $300 million to $405 million.

Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, amended the bill to include a provision on the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) student fee. The TPA is a content-specific, classroom-based assessment that takes place primarily during student teaching for a teacher education student. The Board of Teaching adopted the TPA in August 2011 with the expectation that all institutions that offer a teacher education program are to participate in the field trial this year. The cost associated with the TPA is $300 per teacher candidate, and Rep. Pelowski’s amendment states that the student in a teacher preparation program cannot be charged the fee.

The other amendment adopted that relates to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system includes textbook language introduced by Rep. King Banaian, R-St. Cloud. The bill was amended, among other things, to delete the requirement that state colleges and universities must publish course schedules and course material lists in hard copy format.

The next stop for the bill is the Ways and Means Committee, and the Senate bill is on its way to the Senate Finance Committee.

The Senate Higher Education Committee took up the higher education omnibus bill on Wednesday afternoon. Chair Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, walked members through the bill explaining the provisions included. As a reminder, the Senate bill includes language on textbooks and provides for a Minnesota State Colleges and Universities textbook work group. Also in the bill is the continuing operations language which would allow the colleges and universities access to their cash in the event of a government shutdown, and a provision that increases the revenue fund authority from $300 million to $405 million.

The omnibus bill includes funding, currently left blank in the bill, for leveraged equipment for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, and funding, also left blank, for workforce alignment for the purpose of aligning college and university programs to meet the needs of Minnesota employers for a skilled workforce. Chair Fischbach said she is still uncertain if there will be any money to work with, but would like to see $5 million for leveraged equipment for the colleges and universities and $100,000 to begin the process of workforce alignment. Fischbach said that as the bill makes its way through the process, it will become more clear if there is available funding to support these programs.

There was an amendments offered in committee that MSUSA opposed and spoke against; the amendment would add an additional University of Minnesota student to the Student Advisory Council. After much discussion, Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, withdrew her amendment.

The bill was approved and re-referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The House Higher Education Policy and Finance committee is scheduled to take up their omnibus bill today at 12:30 p.m.

The House Capital Investment Committee took up their $280 million bonding bill yesterday, of which $56 million is included for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Chair Larry Howes, R-Walker, said it’s a long way to the governor’s desk and said he thinks the bill will change throughout the process. Attempting to change the bill in committee, Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill to create an almost $900 million bill, which would include $166 million for the system. Hausman said architects, engineers and construction workers still need jobs, and because of the low interest rates, the taxpayer’s dollar will go further. After much discussion, members approved the bill and re-referred it to the Ways and Means Committee. The Senate has not yet taken up their bonding bill.

On Tuesday the House passed HF 2738, the bill that proposes amending the Minnesota Constitution so that voters will have to show a photo-identification in order to vote. After many hours of debate, the bill passed by a partisan vote of 72-62. Republicans who voted in favor of the bill said identification is necessary to prevent voter fraud. Democrats who oppose the bill said it will deprive people their right to vote. The bill now moves to the Senate. As a reminder, a bill to amend the Minnesota Constitution and pose a question to the voters does not require the governor’s signature.

The House Capital Investment committee released its bonding bill on Monday evening totaling $280.277 million, of which $56.455 million is for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Included is $20 million in repair and replacement, or HEAPR; $3.303 million for the business building addition, renovation, design and demolition at Bemidji State University; $4.606 million for renovation and addition at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington; $4.549 million for renovation, addition and demolition at Northeast Higher Education District, Itasca Community College; $300,000 for aviation maintenance facility expansion design at Northland Community and Technical College; $13.851 million for technical instruction lab renovation at Ridgewater College, Willmar; $3.146 million for renovation and addition for the workforce center colocation at Rochester Community and Technical College; $1.5 million for the health and science alliance center design at Saint Paul College; and $5.2 million for the system wide STEM initiative.

The bill also includes clean-up language from the 2011 Normandale Community College and Northeast Higher Education, Mesabi Range Community and Technical College bonding projects. The St. Cloud State University National Hockey Center project language from 2008 is also amended in the bill to allow any remaining funds to be used for HEAPR . The Pine Technical College Entrepreneurship and Technology Business Incubator is included in the employment and economic development section of the bill for $250,000.

The House also passed a tax bill off the floor this week that includes money to create an internship grant program administered through the Office of Higher Ed (OHE) directed to attracting college students to greater MN businesses. Originally this proposal was to provide a tax credit but due to committee feedback it was changed to a grant program.

Monday, March 19, 2012

JPS Scholarship: Awarding Students for Excellence in Leadership

The JPS Scholarship deadline of March 30th is approaching fast. Read on to learn everything you need to know about this worthwhile opportunity. 

Jared Stene loved coffee, argyle, and The Price Is Right. He also enjoyed organizing petitions and campaigning for elected county positions, and had the opportunity to serve as Treasurer of the Winona County DFL. He was elected in 2007 as President of the Winona State Student Senate.
After Jared’s passing in November 2007, it was his spirit of leadership that evoked the idea of a scholarship in his name. “For me, it’s a way to keep his memory alive,” said Char Kanski, Jared’s mother and one of the scholarship’s board members, “and to help out another student who has the same passion and ideals that [Jared] brought to his life and others, a continuation of the road he was traveling.” Kasey Gerkovich, another Board member, didn’t know Jared Stene, but believes in his legacy. “It is an honor […] to help students grow and develop leadership skills.”

The Jared P. Stene Student Leadership Scholarship, slated to award $2,000 to a MnSCU university student for the full 2012-2013 academic year, consists of a short application, a resume, and an essay on what change applicants brought to their school or community. For Char and Dr. Connie Gores, a higher education professional serving on the JPS Scholarship Board, the essay is important in giving shape to the applicant. Dr. Gores “want[s] to read about what matters to the applicant and what this scholarship will mean to them.”

Char “like[s] to see what [students are] involved with that may be helping others” and whether the students are “engaged in a ‘cause’ which excites them.”  She looks forward to hearing what change students wish to affect or have already succeeded in producing. Char also appreciates how students become leaders. “Sometimes it isn't a group or cause that has turned someone into a leader, but an event in their personal life. That's another essay that catches my attention as well.”

The last part of the application is a simple question: If you could be any coffee drink, what would you be and why?

Cheree Johnson, the student Board member from Bemidji State, was intrigued by the question and Jared’s story. She received the first scholarship award in 2010. It was “unlike any other I have come across. I am thrilled […] to give other students the same opportunity that I had.”

“It’s important for applicants to have fun with the essay and the creative question; it’s important to be themselves and not try to be what they think we want to see,” said Dr. Gores.

For more information about the scholarship as well as the application, visit or contact Justin Hiniker at

Friday, March 16, 2012

MSUSA Legislative Update: 3/16

On Monday the House Veterans Services Division heard HF 1982, a bill that provides higher education benefits to veterans. The bill was amended that changed the scope of the bill and allows participants to take up to 24 credits at a state public college or university while only paying an administrative fee. To qualify, the student must have been eligible for the Minnesota GI bill program or federal educational benefits and no longer be eligible. Language in the delete-all amendment allows the college or university to apply for reimbursement of tuition to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill specifies the program would operate through June 30, 2019. The committee approved the bill as amended and referred it to the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee.

Also on Monday, the Senate Higher Education committee took up SF 1573, a bill introduced by Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-St Cloud, that increases the revenue fund authority for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities from $300 million to $430 million. The Board of Trustees has the authority to issue revenue bonds for revenue-producing facilities, including, but not limited to dorms, student unions and parking. After brief testimony, the committee approved the bill and laid it over for possible consideration in the higher education omnibus bill. State Chair Amanda Bardonner testified to the Committee and stated MSUSA’s support for the increase for our universities.

On Monday evening the Senate took up the continuing operations bill and passed it by a vote of 44-20. SF 1780 allows the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system access to their cash in order to continue educating students in the event of a government shutdown. In the House, the bill was approved by the Higher Education Policy and Finance committee and was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill.

On Tuesday In Washington D.C., students from all over the country delivered letters to congressional leaders asking them to stop interest rates on federally subsidized student loans from rising 3.4 to 6.8 percent. The rate increase will affect subsidized Stafford loans, which are given to low and middle income undergraduates. President Obama has said keeping the interest rate low will help millions of borrowers save over the life of the loan at a time when students are graduating and starting out in life. However, if the rate is not increased, it is estimated to cost billions annually.

Congressman John Kline, R-Minnesota, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee said the increase is, “the result of a ticking time bomb.” Kline said, “Simply calling for more of the same is a disservice to students and taxpayers.” At a press conference yesterday at the U.S. Capitol, students said they worry about debt and how the extra few thousands of dollars they would have to take on could affect future life decisions, such as going on to graduate school, buying a house and their job choice. The interest rate is set to increase this July.

On Wednesday Ii the Senate Higher Education committee yesterday, members heard SF 2201, a bill that, among other things, modifies the post-secondary enrollment options (PSEO) program. Author of the bill Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista, said that there are young people in high school prepared to go faster and the bill would allow for more individualization of students in high school.

The bill eliminates the prohibition of post-secondary institutions to advertise, recruit or solicit the participation of high school students in a PSEO program based on financial grounds. The bill also eliminates the option for students participating in PSEO to designate that the course is for secondary or post-secondary credit and allows them to declare dual credit. There is also a provision in the bill that modifies current law (passed last session) that allows 9th and 10th grade students to participate in PSEO in certain cases, by changing language to allow 9th and 10th graders in some instances a space in a course if space is available. The bill was approved and was re-referred to the Finance Committee. The bill can be found at:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Minnesota State University Student Association Update March, 2012


Textbook Survey
Win an Amazon Kindle Fire
The cost of textbooks is a significant issue for students when it comes to college affordability. MSUSA has created a student survey to learn more about textbooks, including the cost, use and information available about them. We will use the
information gathered to make textbooks more affordable and accessible for students.

The survey is open to all students attending state universities (Bemidji, Mankato, Metropolitan, Moorhead, St. Cloud, Southwest and Winona), and should only take 5-10 minutes to complete. Start the survey now by clicking here.
Be sure to enter your e-mail at the end of survey for a chance to win an Amazon Kindle Fire!
State Legislative Update 
MSUSA Pushes to Reduce Textbook Costs

MSUSA has used the 2012 session to push for the creation of a working group to address the drastic increase in the costs of textbooks. With the help of Rep. King Banaian and Sen. John Carlson we are urging the legislature to direct MnSCU to bring together all the stakeholders and figure out a way to deliver materials to students in a more cost-effective and efficient way. We are hoping to create a system that will revolutionize the way students interact with their textbooks and expand the use of e-books and other classroom advances in technology to reduce the costs to students.

MSUSA Supports 2012 MnSCU Capital Budget Request

The focus of the 2012 Minnesota legislative session has been on bonding and MSUSA is right in the mix advocating on behalf of MnSCU's 2012 capital budget request. The total MnSCU package is $278 million and is full of projects that will enhance opportunites on campuses and experiences for students. MSUSA has placed a significant priority on Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) projects to ensure we are maintaining our existing infrastructure. MSUSA also supports the requested increase to the MnSCU revenue fund. The revenue fund is used to remodel residence halls, build parking structures and other major projects that are needed to keep our campuses safe and competitive with other universities.
Lobby Corps
Our lobby corps program has been very successful during the 2012 session. Our campuses have had a chance to meet with key legislative staff, each State Representative and Senator that represents our campuses as well as the Higher Ed Chairs. Each campus committee has also been active on campus educating students about what is happening at the Capitol.

Each campus looks forward to a second visit to St. Paul in March to complete their lobbying efforts.

MSUSA Continues to Oppose the Voter Identification Amendment

A bill that would add an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution requiring Minnesotans to show a photo identification to vote is currently working its way through the state legislature.

In the current amendment language, voters would be asked to approve an amendment this fall without knowing in advance if their ID would be valid to vote with next year, how absentee voters would provide so-called ‘proof-of-identity’, how a free 'voter ID' could be obtained and at what costs to the state and what the creation of provisional ballots would mean for voters and for election administrators.
MSUSA continues to oppose this amendment and will continue to work to ensure that students' right to vote is protected.
For more weekly updates on the legislative activity of the Minnesota State University Student Association check out our blog every Friday.

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar Visits
Minnesota State University Moorhead
On Sunday, February 19, 2012 U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar met with students from Minnesota State University Moorhead to talk about many of the issues (MSUSA) advocates for at the federal level. The Senator expressed her continued support for the Pell grant program and a desire to keep higher education affordable throughout Minnesota. Check out our blog for more on the event from the students' perspective.
MSUSA Spring Delegates April 13-15 
Craguns Resort in Brainerd, MN
The MSUSA Delegates Assembly and Board of Directors will be meeting at the Cragun's Resort in Brainerd, Minnesota. Business that will be covered at the conference include 2012-2013 Officer Elections,  Platform review, Internal Affairs, and much more. For more information on the weekend click here.
Nominations for Officer Positions Due March 13
Interested in running for State Chair, Vice Chair or Treasurer? Submit a personal statement, resume, proof of good academic standing, at least one letter of recommendation, and an optional photograph to the MSUSA office at by March 13.
Approaching Scholarship Deadlines 
Penny Program Applications
Due March 15, 2012.
Timothy J. Penny State and Federal Fellowship and Barbara J. Penny Scholarship applications are due March 15th. For more information on either for these programs visit or contact Shannah Mulvihill at
Jared P. Stene Scholarship Applications
Due March 30, 2012
Jared P. Stene Leadership Scholarship Application are due March 30th. For more information on this program visit or contact Justin Hiniker at
Please visit our website at
Donate to our cause at

Monday, March 12, 2012

MnSCU Legislative Update March 5-9

On Tuesday the House Higher Education Policy and Finance committee took up HF 2065, a bill that increases from $300 million to $430 million the maximum authority for revenue fund projects in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. The Board of Trustees is authorized to issue revenue bonds for capital costs of revenue producing facilities, including dorms, parking, student unions and similar revenue-producing facilities. Vice Chancellor for Finance Laura King said the increase from $300 million to $430 million will allow colleges and universities to continue planning for facility needs.

Chair of the Minnesota State University Student Association (MSUSA) Amanda Bardonner testified that MSUSA supports the increase because it allows for students to engage in conversations with campus leaders about the needs of the institutions. Bardonner said the process allows for consultation with students and said if the students are not supportive, the project does not go forward. She also said there is a need for dorms and other facilities to be up-to-date in order for universities to remain competitive and attract students.

President of the Minnesota State College Student Association (MSCSA) Geoff Dittberner told the committee that the two-year student association supports only a level of authority for the state university projects. Dittberner said the association would like to work with system leadership to strengthen the scope of any college revenue fund projects.

The committee approved the bill and laid it over for possible inclusion in the higher education omnibus bill.

On Thursday, The House Government Operations and Elections committee took up HF 2738, a bill that proposes an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution requiring a valid photo identification to be presented prior to voting. If passed, the proposed amendment would be posed to voters at the November 2012 general election.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie testified that approximately 84,000 Minnesotans who currently vote do not possess a current photo identification. He also said the 550,000 Minnesotans who currently register on Election Day would now be forced to cast a provisional ballot. Based on experiences in other states, he said one-third of those provisional ballots might not be counted. He told members that it is a radical change to the election system and needs to be thought out carefully. Supporters of the bill, including bill author Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, said the requirement for photo identification would ensure the integrity of the state’s election. The committee approved the bill and referred it to the Ways and Means committee.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Alumni Association Update: March 2012

Annual Meeting and Picnic June 9th, 2012
The MSUSA Alumni Association Board of Directors would like to officially announce the Annual Meeting. It will take place on June 9, 2012 in conjunction with the annual picnic at a to be determined location in the Minneapolis/St Paul area. This meeting is open to all former Minnesota State University Student Association alumni and elections for a number of open positions on the
Board will be taking place that weekend. Watch your e-mail for more details on the event including location and election information.

MSUSA Alumni Association Board met Thursday March 1st, 2012
The MSUSA Alumni Association Board of Directors held their monthly meeting this past Thursday. Business covered included setting an annual meeting date, drafting a FY13 budget, and reviewing potential changes to the bylaws. To view minutes from the meeting, click here. Their next scheduled meeting is May 3, 2012. 

Alumni Spotlight: Kari Winter
Click here to read our most recent alumni spotlight featuring Kari Winter. Kari is a Winona State University graduate, served as the MSUSA Gender Issues Facilitator as a student, was the MSUSA Director of Development and Alumni Outreach from 2007-2011 and is currently the Program Manager of the Health Law Institute at Hamline University School of Law. 

Legislative Update
Over the past month, MSUSA has been working on a number of issues at the State Capitol. We are currently supporting H.F. No. 2210, a bill that would provide a tax credit to greater Minnesota companies who hire paid interns. In addition, we are currently advocating for H.F. No. 2213, a bill aimed at lowering the costs of textbooks. Lastly, the association is continuing to emphasize the importance of Higher Education Assest Preservation and Replacment (HEAPR) in our bonding discussions at the capitol. For legislative updates every Friday afternoon, check out our blog.

Alumni Association Bylaw Change: Election Guidelines
The Alumni Association Board of Directors would like to change Article IV, Section C of the Bylaws to allow board members who are appointed to fill a vacancy to serve out the remainder of their term. As it stands now, those appointed are only allowed to serve until the next Annual Meeting. As per our governing documents, any general alumni association members who have concerns or questions about this change should contact alumni association board chair, Josh Martin at by no later than Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012. To view a copy of the bylaws click here

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar Meets with Minnesota State University Moorhead Students
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar met with students from the Minnesota State University Student Association (MSUSA) at Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) on Sunday, February 19, 2012. Minnesota State University Moorhead student body president, Kimberly Ehrlich has this to say about the event: "We were encouraged by the senator's support of Pell grants and keeping higher education affordable at a federal level, and hope to continue this conversation in the future." Check out more from the students' perspective of the event here.

February Conference and Alumni Social
On February 10-11 in Saint Cloud, MN the Minnesota State University Student Association Board of Directors and campus committees met at Saint Cloud State University to begin the Internal Affairs process and prepare for the organizing and legislative work needed to be done this semester. In addition, on Friday night of the conference a social was held between MSUSA alumni and students. While alumni turnout was lower than expected, those who did attend thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the students.

Office Manager Kasey Gerkovich Resigns
Office Manager Kasey Gerkovich will be leaving the MSUSA staff effective Wednesday, March 7th, 2012. While we are sad to see her go, we wish her the best of luck in all of her future endeavors. We encourage any alumni who worked with Kasey and would like to stay up to date on her latest exploits to like her official Facebook Page.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Office Manager Kasey Gerkovich's Parting Thoughts

Sadly, my last official day here at MSUSA is Wednesday.  It has been wonderful to be a part of MSUSA and I will always have very fond memories of the students and my co-workers. If I might leave you with a few thoughts…first, remember everything happens for a reason.  Second, live your life as though it was being reported on the front page of the newspaper.  And third, your life is what you make of it! Don’t waste it.

Please stay in touch! 

Kasey can be reached at

Friday, March 2, 2012

March 2nd Legislative Update

Tuesday House Higher Ed Hearing

The House Higher Education Policy and Finance committee heard two bills on Tuesday afternoon. The first bill, HF 1137, introduced by Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, redirects $25 million of the permanent university fund (established in the University of Minnesota charter) that funds the Natural Resources Research Institute to a University of Minnesota engineering program offered at Mesabi Range Community and Technical College and for student scholarships to attend the mining, metallurgical, or related engineering program. Ron Ulseth, Engineering program Coordinator at Itasca Community College, spoke about the engineering program model, which is an active learning model. He testified in support of the bill which expands the model from general engineering to mining engineering. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the higher education omnibus bill. The bill can be found at:

The second bill the committee took up was HF 2213, a textbook bill introduced by Rep. King Banaian, R-St. Cloud. After much discussion, this bill was also laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill. Banaian testified that the bill was brought to him by the Minnesota State University Student Association who are concerned with the affordability of textbooks. The bill would establish a task force that would study the effectiveness of existing textbook laws on affordability as well as examine alternative textbook formats and delivery methods. Rep. Banaian told committee members he is open to working on the bill and amending Section 4, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities textbook task force, to a textbook affordability workgroup. Don Larsson with the Inter Faculty Organization, testified that the IFO supports the overarching issue of affordability raised in the bill; however, he testified that he thinks the proposed changes are premature and discussed the processes currently in place on Minnesota State Colleges and Universities campuses, including the textbook rental programs at six universities in the system. The bill can be found at:

February forecast shows budget surplus of $323 million

The new budget forecast announced yesterday shows a $323 million surplus for the remainder of the 2012-2013 biennium. This continues the trend set by the November forecast, a surplus of $876 million, and means the state does not need to resolve a deficit this session. “This forecast confirms the last forecast, our state’s economy is growing and our budget situation is improving. The trouble is that we still have lots of IOU’s so it’s not a time to let down our guard,” Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said.

State law directs the first $5 million to build back the budget reserves to $653 million. The remaining $318 million is committed to begin paying back the K-12 Education shift passed last legislative session. After that action, there still remains $2.4 billion in school payment shifts.

Senate Higher Education committee learns about internships and textbooks

Members of the Senate Higher Education committee heard from Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, about SF 1869, a bill that establishes a greater Minnesota internship program. Miller said the idea for the bill began when students at Winona State University talked to him about their concerns with the lack of internships outside the metro area. Amanda Bardonner, chair of the Minnesota State University Student Association (MSUSA), said that six of the seven state universities are located in greater Minnesota and the bill would provide opportunities for students. In a letter provided to the committee from Jack Linehan, student senate president at Winona State University, Linehan wrote, “Without an internship, our traditional students are entering the workforce with little or none of the experience needed to supply Minnesota’s workforce demands.” After the committee amended the bill to include private colleges and universities, members adopted the bill and referred it to the Tax Committee. In the House, the bill is awaiting a hearing in Taxes. The bill can be found at:

Committee members next heard SF 1858, a textbook bill introduced by Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji. Carlson told the committee that he appreciates everyone’s efforts in higher education in trying to keep textbook costs down, and said this bill is an attempt to get textbook information out to students in a timely manner so they can make decisions. Amanda Bardonner testified that textbook cost is a continuing concern for students, and added that MSUSA has implemented a textbook survey with 800 student comments returned. She said they are eager to share those survey results. The bill was amended to change the proposed Minnesota State Colleges and Universities textbook task force to a work group to study methods that result in lower textbook costs for students. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the higher education omnibus bill. In the House, the bill was heard earlier this week and also laid over. The bill can be found at:

Thursday House Taxes and Higher Ed Hearings

On Thursday the House Tax Committee heard the Greater Minnesota Internship Tax Credit bill and heard testimony from WSU Student Senate President Jack Linehan on how the proposal will help Greater Minnesota and students. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the Omnibus Tax bill that will be part of the final session negotiations. Jack was joined by fellow WSU students Danielle Wilson and Logan Galchutt.

Also on Thursday the House Higher Education Policy and Finance committee laid over for possible inclusion in the higher education omnibus bill, a bill that would allow the state colleges and universities to keep operating in the event of another state government shutdown. HF 1990, sponsored by Chair Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, was amended to require the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to repay Minnesota Management and Budget for services provided during a budget impasse.

President of the Minnesota State College Student Association Geoff Dittberner said he enthusiastically supports the continuing operations bill. He told the committee that taking summer classes helped him stay on track for graduation. If the campuses had closed due to the state shutdown, it would have set many students back, Dittberner said. He said the bill will provide assurance that students’ lives will not be interrupted. The bill can be found at:

In the Senate Finance committee, members approved the bill that proposes a constitutional amendment requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. The bill heads next to the Senate Rules Committee before it will go to the floor for a final vote.