Last session, the Higher Education Committee had a zero funding target in 2018 and the U of M and MinnState schools were shut out of supplemental funding.
What has happened in this issue area since last session?
The University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler has announced he will step down in June 2019 and a search is underway for his replacement. His severance package and plans to continue teaching have caused some consternation with U of M faculty and legislators. This issue along with funding discussions and regent selections will dominate the session.
The University of Minnesota Board of Regents chose on December 5 Provost Joan Gabel as the sole finalist to replace President Kaler. A 23-member search committee that included three regents, along with a consulting firm, was named to review applications, conduct interviews, and forward names to the regents. If approved, Provost Gabel will be the U of M’s first female president. Some regents expressed concern that the board could only forward one name and open meeting law constraints kept them from privately interviewing candidates who did not want to be named publicly.
Higher Education Chair, Sen. Michelle Fischbach, resigned last June and will be replaced by Sen. Paul Anderson. There may be changes to committee membership this session.
What is expected to happen this session?
U of M and MnState funding, regent selection and potential changes to that process and discussions on the U of M presidential salary and search.
The U of M and MnState will be at the Capitol to look for funding. The Legislature will select a regent and there may be changes to the selection process. There may also be discussions on the U of M presidential salary and the search for President Kaler’s replacement.
Higher education funding has been shorted since the Republicans took control of the Legislature in 2017. The biennial budget passed in 2017 appropriated $210 million for programming but was well below the Governor’s request of $318 million. The University of Minnesota and MinnState focused on capital requests last session and the final budget target was $0; $1 million was re-appropriated from an existing program. The U of M was completely shut out of the 2018 funding.
Expect discussion again about the regent selection process and more robust funding for higher education to promote success. Student debt, campus assault, teachers of color recruitment, and workforce needs will also likely be discussed outside of the budget hearings.
Four U of M regents are up for re-election in 2019. The Legislature plays a pivotal role in that selection and with the new DFL majority in the House, there will be a chance for the DFL to have some say in the appointments. Up for re-election are at-large positions held by Dean Johnson, Linda Cohen and Abdul Omari. Congressional District 5 Regent Peggy Lucas is also up for re-election. The U of M is also working to choose a new president. Current President Eric Kaler will step down in July.
University of Minnesota
The University Board of Regents has approved its 2019 biennial budget request: $57 million total funds for the U of M’s core mission—a 6.7% increase from biennium to biennium. The U of M will also request $200 million in Higher Education Asset Preservation (HEAPR) funds and a $28 million capital request for the Child Development building replacement and $4.3 million for renovation of A.B. Anderson Hall at UMD.
The MinnState system will ask the Legislature for $246 million—a 17% increase—for the biennium with the promise that if they receive the funding they won’t increase tuition. About $169 million will be used to keep up with inflation with $111 million for salary and benefit increases. $37 million will help replace the outdated information management system. Another $25 million would go to fund two new scholarship programs. A separate capital request of $150 million will be made for facility maintenance and repair funds in a bonding bill.
Legislators may revisit the regent selection process, attempting to make it more accountable and less mired in politics. The last two processes brought candidates that came in at the last minute, were never vetted by the Regent Candidate Advisory Council and some that weren’t discussed at the joint Higher Education Committee level.
U of M President severance and athletic program costs
U of M President Eric Kaler was given a severance package on his retirement next summer. He also will return to teaching at the U. There are concerns about the severance package President Kaler was given, and those concerns may be aired at the Legislature. There are also questions about spending on the U of M’s athletic programs, and those concerns may also come up during session.
Performance accountability metrics
A continued discussion on higher education accountability and how the state’s institutions are serving students will continue in 2019. In 2015, performance metrics were put in place to ensure that colleges and universities were working toward statewide goals that ensure all students are able to earn a secondary degree or certification.
Campus sexual assault (potential hearing)
In 2017, $50,000 was appropriated for campus sexual assault reporting and $300,000 to hire a campus sexual violence coordinator (statewide). A hearing on these two programs and their effects may be suggested.
MN workforce needs
Minnesota businesses are begging for workers to fill vacant jobs positions; this session expect the Higher Education committee to continue efforts for our colleges and universities to provide those skilled workers to strengthen Minnesota’s economy.
Special education teacher preparation programs
Minnesota K-12 schools face critical shortages of special education teachers. Efforts have been made to enhance ways to fill that gap through Grow Your Own programs. But the need still exists, and more money should be directed at expanded programs.
Teachers of color recruitment
In 2017, one-fifth ($1 million) of the Governor’s requested amount for recruitment of teachers of color was funded. The discussion should continue and funding should increase for this effort that also can help close the state’s achievement gap in K-12 public schools.