Higher education budget bills focus on making college affordable

By 2018, Minnesota’s employers are expected to require one of the most highly educated workforces in the nation, with 70 percent of jobs needing some education beyond high school. The House and Senate help prepare us to meet those needs by investing in higher education in their omnibus higher education bills.

The Senate bill (Senate File 1236) increases funding for higher education by $263 million in FY 2014-15, while the House bill (House File 1692) increases funding by $150 million. The two omnibus bills have very different ways of targeting these resources.

Financial aid. The Senate increases funding for the State Grant program, which provides financial aid to low- and moderate-income students, by $80 million over the biennium. It increases the cap on living expenses and adjusts the share of tuition students and families are required to pay. Some of this financial aid is specifically targeted at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) students.

The Senate also reduces the waiting list for the American Indian Scholarship and funds a summer bridge program to help students transition between high school and college.

The House recommendations for financial aid are more limited, increasing funding for the State Grant program by $11 million in FY 2014-15. The House improves affordability by reducing the amount a family is expected to pay toward a student’s tuition.

MnSCU. The Senate funds internships and apprenticeships for MnSCU, seeks to retain quality faculty, invests in training that targets high-demand professions and caps tuition increases at 3 percent for the next two years. Overall, the Senate increases MnSCU funding by $80 million in the FY 2014-15 biennium.

The House proposal for MnSCU targets affordability, providing $78 million in FY 2014-15 to freeze undergraduate tuition at 2012-13 academic year levels for two years.

University of Minnesota. The Senate follows the Governor’s recommendations for funding the University of Minnesota, providing $43 million to freeze undergraduate tuition at 2012-13 academic year levels for two years, $36 million for MnDRIVE (a new research and innovation program) and just over $1 million for a loan forgiveness program for health care professionals.

The House freezes resident undergraduate tuition at 2012-13 levels for University of Minnesota students, but only invests $18 million in MnDRIVE, and does not fund the loan forgiveness program.

The higher education omnibus bill passed the Senate last week and is expected to be on the House floor this Thursday.

The House and Senate will have some important differences to iron out in conference committee, but both bills share the important goals of investing in our workforce and making higher education more affordable.

-Caitlin Biegler

About Clark Biegler

Clark Biegler is the Minnesota Budget Project’s policy analyst. She researches and writes about state tax and budget issues. Clark holds a Master of Public Policy degree from George Washington University in Washington, DC; and a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. She interned at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute in Washington, DC, Third Way in Washington, DC, Lutheran Social Services, and the Alabama State Office of Primary Care and Rural Health.
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