This week, the House passed their Omnibus Higher Education bill, a package that represents a far different set of priorities than the Senate’s Omnibus bill passed last week.
The Senate bill is a commitment to Minnesota’s students and is a focused approach to improving Minnesota’s higher education systems. The bill invests approximately $205 million in new spending, much of it targeted to keeping tuition costs low for students, increasing the state grant programs coverage, and investing in the University of Minnesota’s Medical School.
For Minnesota’s primary higher education systems, the bill invests approximately $87 million more into the U of M, and approximately $61 million more into MnSCU. The majority of both of these investments are committed to keeping tuition costs low for students, while $25 million of the U of M investment will also go to the Medical School to help retain its national prominence and train the next generation of Minnesota’s health care professionals. It also reforms the state grant program, allowing the cap to be raised for students who currently receive aid and extending the program to cover more students.
The House bill fails to offer substantial investment in Minnesota’s higher education system. It shifts money from the state grant program to cover a one year tuition freeze at MnSCU for 2016 and a 1% reduction in tuition for two-year degree seekers in 2017. Students at four-year MnSCU schools would see a tuition freeze in the second year of the biennium only. The House offers only token investments for two U of M campuses and no increase for the U of M Twin Cities campus.
U of M President Eric Kaler has said students could expect a tuition increase of 2-3% if the House plan moves forward. The House bill picks winners and losers in higher education, and seems to be targeting certain geographic locations and systems for investment, while others lose out. While the Senate plan encourages and provides a path for Minnesota’s students to earn a postsecondary degree or certification, the House bill is playing politics with our state higher education institutions, picking winners and losers. (S.F. 5)