Omnibus higher education bill passed on floor


The House passed an omnibus higher education finance conference committee report cuts much sharper than the budget proposed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Sponsored by Rep. Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls) and Senate President Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville), HF1101*/ SF924 would reduce $411.1 million in funding from the forecast base, about an 11 percent reduction from current biennium spending. Dayton’s plan calls for a $170.9 million base reduction.

Passed 69-57, it is expected to be addressed by the full Senate Wednesday..

Checking in at nearly $2.51 billion, HF1101*/ SF924 would cut the University of Minnesota 18.9 percent from forecast base. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system would be reduced by 14.3 percent from forecast base.

The Senate bill called for an 18.9 percent General Fund reduction to the university; the House, 17.7 percent; and the governor, 6 percent. The respective percentages for MnSCU were 13.3 percent, 15.9 percent and 6 percent.

Officials from both systems note the funding levels are comparable to those from 1998 while they are serving approximately 40,000 more students. They say the cuts would lead to hundreds of faculty layoffs, thousands of reduced course offerings, program closures, millions of dollars in lost research opportunities and would hurt Minnesota’s competitiveness in future years because of fewer qualified workers.

However, the state grant program would see an additional $21.1 million, a 7.3 percent increase. The House proposed increasing base funding for the state grant program by $27.1 million, the Senate $7.2 million.

In an effort to ensure students don’t bear the brunt of state reductions, MnSCU could not raise tuition by more than 3 percent per year at the two-year state colleges, and by no more than 5 percent in the first academic year and 4 percent in the second academic at the state universities. The annual increase in mandatory fees is limited to 4 percent, unless higher rate is approved by student associations.

It is requested the university also adhere to the 5 percent/4 percent tuition increases and 4 percent fee increase. Because of its autonomy, the Legislature can only request the university do something.

Other policy and finance provisions in the bill include:

  • 1 percent of fiscal year 2013 university and MnSCU funding is contingent on the meeting of specific criteria;
  • encouraging MnSCU and the university to offer a guaranteed tuition plan;
  • requiring MnSCU to adopt a policy on credit transfers that, in part, allows any MnSCU course taken for credit to transfer to any MnSCU institution for the same number of credits;
  • eliminating the matching grant program that is part of the Minnesota college savings plan;
  • lowering of the eligibility age for the senior citizen higher education program from 66 to 62;
  • prohibiting the use of state or federal funds, for state programs, to support human cloning or for expenses incidental to human cloning; and
  • repealing the requirement that public institutions sell American-made clothing and apparel in their bookstores to the extent possible.