Higher Ed, Labor, teeth and parents


More labor members could sit on a college board, more oral health practitioners could be practicing in the state, and parents may be informed when their son or daughter gets in trouble at college.

Each is included in HF3349/SF2942*, the omnibus higher education policy bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) and Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul). It was passed 132-0 by the House and 64-0 by the Senate, both May 7.

Financial provisions affecting the University of Minnesota, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and student financial aid are in HF1812, an omnibus supplemental budget bill approved May 6 by a conference committee. It is being held over depending on negotiations between legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Pawlenty to resolve the state’s projected deficit for the biennium.

MnSCU board members

An idea proffered by Rukavina would assist labor in having representation on the 15-member MnSCU Board of Trustees. Under current law, each member is appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.

“It’s important to have some type of, as we do on the (University of Minnesota) Board of Regents, labor representation. We’ve always had that tradition,” he said. “Furthermore, given the makeup of the Board of Trustees now, it seems to be lacking working class folks who send their kids to our public institutions.”

The conference committee agreed that one board member must be appointed from labor organizations. The state AFL-CIO must recommend four to six candidates to the governor beginning in 2010 and every six years thereafter. However, the governor is not bound by the recommendations.

Conferees also agreed that the three student board members must be enrolled at least half time at a MnSCU institution when appointed to the board.

Oral health practitioner

To meet the routine preventive care dental needs of some Minnesotans, the bill would allow for the creation of an oral health practitioner profession. It also would create a working group to establish the education and regulation of such professionals.

“There is a need to create a mid-level practitioner. There is a desire in health care reform to enable practitioners to practice at the top of their license. This is a step to move us in that direction,” said Sen. Ann Lynch (DFL-Rochester), who sponsored this in SF2895. She said MnSCU and the university support the language. The Board of Dentistry has not taken an official position. The first graduates would be practicing in 2011.

A practitioner would need to be a graduate of an accredited education program and pass a comprehensive, competency-based examination administered independently of the institution.

To practice, the practitioner must agree to serve low-income, uninsured and underserved patients or in a dental health professional shortage area as determined by the health commissioner. Examples include rural parts of the state and the inner cities.

“This only works under the supervision of a Minnesota-licensed dentist, and only in conjunction with a written collaborative agreement between that dentist and this newly created mid-level practitioner,” Lynch said.

Parental notification

For students who misbehave, the bill adds to the exceptions in state data practices law that maintains postsecondary data as private by incorporating expanded disclosure allowed by the Federal Family Educational Rights Privacy Act.

Under the act, information that can be disclosed includes the final results of disciplinary proceedings resulting from a violent crime or nonforcible sex offense; information provided to the institution concerning registered sex offenders on campus as that information is disclosed to other parts of society; and disclosure to a parent or guardian of a violation of law and institutional rules on drug or alcohol use by a student under age 21 if the institution has a form signed by the student authorizing disclosure. The school must notify parents and students about the availability and purpose of such a form, including distribution of the form at parent and student orientation meetings.

“This is a reasonable request. It is something that parents have been seeking, as well as it’s a good safety item for students and institutions to be helping them,” said Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin). “We want our students to mature well and we want them to make a decision and we need to be able to help them along that way. This will help face that future maturity need by thinking about alcohol and making good decisions.”

Other provisions

• a veteran’s spouse or dependent is classified as a resident student for state grant purposes, if the veteran is a state resident;

• a report is required on the number of waivers sought, and requests granted, from 2007 legislation requiring MnSCU to set the maximum number of semester credits for a baccalaureate degree and an associate of arts degree at 120 or 60 credits or their equivalent;

• as part of a final report due on the state grant program, the Office of Higher Education is to study and evaluate the enrollment patterns of students from low-income families in higher education, and identify potential changes to increase participation; and

• requirements of a student loan forgiveness program for health professionals would be clarified for mid-level practitioners, nurses and other health care technicians who teach.