Higher ed bill takes on liquor sales, textbooks and bonding

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The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system’s bonding ceiling could increase 35 percent to $405 million through a bill that also proposes changes to student health insurance requirements and liquor sales at TCF Bank Stadium.

Rep. Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls) sponsors HF2065/ SF1573*, the omnibus higher education bill, that passed the House 129-1.

Nornes, who chairs the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee, said the increased bonding authority would be used to fund $66.8 million in projects.

With the additional capacity, MnSCU would construct an $18 million parking ramp and a $11.6 million student center at Metropolitan State University’s St. Paul campus; and support a $17.2 million renovation of dormitories at St. Cloud State University.

Amended to include the House language, the bill now returns the Senate where its version passed 65-0 April 14. Senate President Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville) is the Senate sponsor.

Included in the bill is up to $25 million for a mining, metallurgical or engineering degree program offered by the University of Minnesota at Mesabi Range Community and Technical College. The funding would include scholarships for students enrolled in the program.

The bill also includes language that would allow the sale of intoxicating liquor before halftime at University of Minnesota football games played at TCF Bank Stadium, and any games played by the Minnesota Vikings at that stadium.

Other notable parts of the bill include:

  • requiring MnSCU and the university to waive requirements that students buy health insurance from the systems, and allow them to select coverage from other health care providers, including MinnesotaCare;
  • mandating colleges and universities to publish a list of required and recommended course materials on school websites;
  • requiring instructors or departments to notify students if previous, less expensive editions of textbooks are acceptable as substitute textbooks for more expensive new editions;
  • requiring the university to transfer $645,000 in fiscal year 2013 to Hennepin County Medical Center for graduate family medicine education programs; and
  • requiring MnSCU’s Board of Trustees to form a work group to study methods to lower textbook costs, including expansion of electronic textbooks and assessing methods for delivering those electronic texts to students.