Senate low target means higher education and students are big losers

Minnesota post-secondary students and their families will be the big losers with the small budget increase the Senate Republicans provided in their higher education funding bill.

The bill provides only $45 million in new funds for higher education and although it does increase the student grant amounts, it short-changes both the University of Minnesota and MinnState at a time when both systems have faced serious budget challenges because of the pandemic. The bill also makes tuition cut requirements without providing the funds to help the U of M and MinnState cover the cuts. While the U of M and MinnState are encouraged to use federal COVID dollars to cover potential budget shortfalls, it is unclear if that would be an allowed use of the money.

MinnState and the University investments are well below what both systems requested and what the governor proposed, with MinnState receiving $25 million despite a $120 million request. The U will receive $15 million and had requested $46.5 million. The governor proposed fully funding the system requests.

Two DFL initiatives, Hunger Free Campus Grants to help students with basic needs such as food shortages, housing and transportation and the increased grants to the College Possible Program were included in the bill. A basic needs resource hub provision was also included to help a changing student demographic met the challenges of juggling college and daily life.

The bill passed out of the Higher Education and Finance Committees this week and will be debated on the floor in the coming weeks. (SF 975)