Senate higher education bill short-changes U of M, MnState students

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Senate’s higher education omnibus bill passed off the floor on Tuesday with disappointing funding levels for the University of Minnesota and MnState college systems. The bill also underfunded the state grant program, which helps keep tuition costs down for all students. In response to the bill passage, Sen. Simonson released the following comments:

 “The Senate Higher Education budget bill provides only $100 million to state schools, which is $218 million below the Governor’s proposal and far below what officials at the U of M and MnState had requested to maintain educational quality at campuses and help keep tuition low. The bill also falls short in funding state higher education grants to students, providing $52 million less than the Governor’s recommendation – this funding deficiency will continue to escalate our student loan debt problem. As a representative of a district which includes three major higher education facilities, I find this Republican proposal completely inadequate,” Sen. Simonson said.

In contrast, the Governor’s budget recommendation would have provided $96 million for the U of M and $150 million for MnState. The governor also recommended adding provisions to address campus sexual violence, homelessness, and the state’s teacher shortage. Funding was also recommended to address aging technology infrastructure for both systems.

Although the bill does contain language for a tuition freeze at MnState, it does not provide enough funding to alleviate potential cuts to critical programs or quality professors. You simply cannot freeze tuition without providing additional funding to the institutions. We are setting Minnesota up to fail under this proposal – a failure we simply cannot afford.

“Minnesota faces a serious worker shortage and businesses are clamoring for qualified workers.  We need thoughtful investments and innovation in our higher education, not cuts to the systems that help educate our future workforce. This bill fails to provide essential investments in our state schools, short-changes students, businesses and will only exacerbate our student loan debt problem,” Sen. Simonson said.

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Erik Simonson represents District 7 in northeastern Minnesota.

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