Leading the way in higher education

With less than one week left in the Legislative session, any final proposal for Higher Education should educate each and every college student to their full potential. A window of opportunity exists with the current budget surplus to be prudent and strategic to deliver new ways to educate our future leaders. The Senate proposal delivers on that imperative.

The centerpieces of the Senate proposal include policies that support technical training our industries are clamoring for: two-year technical education at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) at no cost to students who qualify based on income and who maintain the required performance standards. Additionally, our dual-education apprenticeship programs provide Minnesota companies in high growth/strong demand sectors with grant money so that their employees can attend college while they receive on the job training.

The Senate bill also reflects an understanding that the prominence of the University of Minnesota (U of M) is critical to our state by investing in the University’s educational mission. The bill supports the aspirations of our students and their families and understand the importance of making the U of M accessible to all high potential students.

Our bill also makes a strong commitment to the University’s Medical School. Following the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations, the Senate bill supports the University’s efforts to regain its’ reputation as a world-leading medical school. Coupled with this investment are measures aimed at ensuring human subjects, especially our most vulnerable citizens, are protected, and our research processes and procedures are implemented with the highest ethical standards.

The Senate bill adjusts the State Grant program to increase awards to low-income students and to reach middle-class families where financial constraints limit choice and opportunity. When it comes to providing all low-income students with state aid so they can choose the college or university that fits them best, Minnesota is a proven leader. Minnesota’s private non-profit colleges and universities that make Minnesota a destination schools have a track record of graduating low-income students on time and with less debt than many public institutions, and we know the return on investment is a win for Minnesota.

The Senate bill provides an additional investment of $205 million to accomplish these life-altering objectives for young Minnesotans. It invests equally in MnSCU and the U of M and makes a strong investment in the State Grant program. Language in our proposal links this investment to specific outcomes – 5% of Fiscal Year 2017’s funding for both MnSCU and the U of M is withheld unless performance metrics are met that assure more of our students graduate on time at a lesser cost.

In contrast, the House bill leaves the University of Minnesota behind, and takes important aid directly from students in the State Grant program and transfers it to MnSCU. The proposed grant reduction leaves 5,300 students without State aid. We reject that approach. We understand House leadership assigned a low target to this budget area and we ask for reconsideration so that our shared objectives can be achieved.

Investing in higher education is a priority, but it must be done equitably. The Senate bill serves all students and their families. It reflects our understanding that education is the ladder up and that each and every student deserves access to an education that matches their aspirations and potential.

Senate DFL Media