Higher Ed Conference Committee reaches agreement, Senate passes it
On May 16, the higher education omnibus bill conference committee reached an agreement and passed its report. The conference committee bill includes appropriations for the University, increased investment in state grant program, the Path to Prosperity Act (also called the Dream Act), and other higher education programs. Overall, the conference committee appropriates $1.17 billion to the University of Minnesota in FY14-15, including $78.25 million in additional funding for an undergraduate tuition freeze and the Minnesota Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy (MnDRIVE) program.
This afternoon the Senate adopted the conference committee report and passed the bill 44-22. The House is expected to vote on the bill today or tomorrow. If passed and signed by the governor, this would mark the first funding increase for the University since FY2008.
Capital investment bill does not pass House
Also this afternoon, the House debated and voted on its capital investment bill, which includes various University projects. The bill did not receive the 81 votes needed to pass; it failed 76-56. With less than four days left in the legislative session, it is unlikely a capital investment bill will become law. View a comparison of the capital investment proposals.
Budget targets agreement announced
Yesterday, Governor Mark Dayton and DFL legislative leaders announced their budget targets agreement. The agreement calls for a $250 million increase in overall higher education spending for FY14-15. As you may recall from earlier this session, the preliminary targets were set as follows: the governor at $253 million, the Senate at $262 million, and the House at $150 million. The higher education conference committee will meet today to compare the differences between the House and Senate higher education bills.
Decade of Discovery
On Wednesday, May 8, the Senate Finance Committee heard a bill authored by Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee chair Terri Bonoff that would appropriate money to fund the Decade of Discovery program. This program is a partnership between the U and Mayo Clinic that aims to prevent, treat, and cure diabetes. David Etzwieler, the program's executive director, and Dr. Maura Donovan, its chief technology officer, testified on the mission and goals of the decade. The committee amended the appropriation to $500,000 in each year of the FY14-15 biennium.
Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment
Tuesday night, May 7, after a six-hour debate, the House version of the omnibus energy bill was passed by a vote of 70-63. This bill provides $5 million for the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) each year of the FY14-15 biennium. Although an amendment to remove IREE funding from the bill was prepared, University state relations staff was able to convince the author to withdraw the amendment. This afternoon the Senate passed its version of the omnibus energy, which does not include the IREE provision.
Senate passes Dream Act
Last week, by a vote of 41-23, the Senate passed the Path to Prosperity Act (also called the Dream Act), which grants resident tuition and state aid eligibility to undocumented students. The House bill received a hearing in the House Higher Education Committee, but was not passed out of committee and did not get added to the omnibus bill. Governor Dayton's staff has stated he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
As May 20, the adjournment date for the 2013 legislative session, approaches, Governor Dayton, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, House Speaker Paul Thissen, and House Majority Leader Erin Murphy have been meeting to set the final biennial budget targets, which determine how much revenue will be raised and spent. The Minnesota constitution and statute requires that the state have a balanced budget. An agreement is expected within the next few days. Once targets are set, the conference committee on the higher education omnibus bill will meet.
Higher education omnibus bill advocacy
Last week, an action alert was issued to University's Support the U advocates. The alert targeted constituents of the higher education omnibus bill conference committee members. The legislators were urged to support for the University's biennial budget request.
House passes higher ed bill; conferees appointed
On Thursday, April 25, the House debated and passed its version of the higher education bill. Only one amendment was added to the bill. The amendment reallocates $543,000 (the cost of the administration study requested by the Senate) from the University's operations and maintenance fund and puts it into the student grant program. The bill passed with a vote of 88-44.
This week the following legislators were appointed the conference committee on the higher education bill, which is expected to meet soon:
House Higher Education Chair Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona)
Representative Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley)
Representative Paul Rosenthal (DFL- Edina)
Representative Zachary Dorholt (DFL-St. Cloud)
Representative Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls)
Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Chair Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka)
Senator Greg Clausen (DFL-Apple Valley)
Senator Jeremy Miller (R-Winona)
Senator Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul)
Senator Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley)
Summary of higher education omnibus bills
Last week, the Senate passed its version of the higher education omnibus bill after a lengthy debate. Ultimately, two amendments were added. The first one prohibits state funds from being used toward the buyout of an employment contract of a coach or employee of the U of M Athletics Department; this provision already exists in state statute. The second amendment requires the MNSCU Board of Trustees, and requests the Board of Regents, to develop a policy concerning hosting, paying travel expenses, or bestowing an academic honor on individuals who may have been convicted of terrorism or have publicly acknowledged participation in an act of terrorism. The House Ways and Means Committee passed its version of the higher education bill with no amendments also last week. The entire House likely will vote on the bill today. Once the House passes a version of the bill, the House and Senate will reconcile differences in conference committee.
The Senate higher education omnibus bill appropriates a total of approximately $1.17 billion in appropriations for the U of M General Fund in FY14-15, while the House appropriates $1.16 billion. This includes $124.1 million in the Senate and $123.2 million in the House for special system appropriations. In addition to these appropriations, the University is also estimated to receive $22.3 million from tobacco tax revenue for the Academic Health Center.
The Senate higher education omnibus bill appropriates $389.25 million for the state grants program at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education for FY14-15. It also increases the four-year program tuition maximum for grant awards to over $13,000, and the two-year program tuition maximum to $5,808. The bill increases the living and miscellaneous expense (LME) allowance from $7,000 to $7,940. The assigned family responsibility (AFR) is decreased for independent students without dependents, from 68% to 50% of the student contribution. Finally, the Senate bill changes the assigned student responsibility (ASR) from 46% of the cost of attending an institution to 50% of the cost.
The House bill appropriates $320 million for the state grant program, and the House state grant formula is different from the Senate's. The House bill does not change the 2012 statute tuition maximums and the LME, with tuition maximums for two- and four-year programs at $5,508 and $10,488, respectively, and the LME allowance at $7,000. The bill sets the AFR for independent students without dependents to 53% and the AFR for independent students with dependents to 80% of the student contribution. The House bill leaves the ASR unchanged.
MnLINK Gateway and Minitex
The Senate bill appropriates $11.8 million and the House bill appropriates $11.2 million for the MNLink Gateway and MINITEX Library Services. MNLink Gateway is a statewide virtual library that grants access to Minnesota's library resources. MINITEX encompasses MNLink and is an information and resource sharing program of the University Libraries and the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.
Hennepin County Medical Center
Both omnibus bills appropriate just less than $1.3 million to the Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) for its graduate Family Medicine Residency Program. Created in 1970, the program trains medical school graduates in the practice of family medicine. The difference between the two bills is that the House takes the appropriation from the University's operations and maintenance funding and the Senate appropriates new funding by establishing a pass-through grant from the Office of Higher Education to the HCMC.
University operations and maintenance
The Senate appropriates $1.046 billion for operations and maintenance. Of the operations and maintenance appropriations for the fiscal year 2015, 5% will become available when the Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner certifies that the University has met three out of five of the following goals:
University tuition freeze
Both the House and the Senate appropriate $42.6 million for FY14-15 to fund the U's requested resident undergraduate tuition freeze. The House requires that the Board of Regents must certify to the commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget that the University's resident undergraduate tuition rate is no greater that the 2012-2013 academic year and that the tuition freeze is not offset by student fees, charges, or other student assessments.
Both bills establish the Minnesota Discovery, Research, and InnoVation Economy (MnDRIVE) program, as requested by the University. The Senate fully funds the University's MnDRIVE request at $36 million over the biennium, while the House appropriates $18 million over the biennium.
Both bills request that the University submits investment proposals to the Legislature each biennium, consistent with the goals and objectives of the MnDRIVE program, to be considered for future funding. Both bills require that the University to report the outcomes of the Legislature's MnDRIVE investments.
Primary Care Education Initiatives
Both bills appropriate $4.3 million for primary care education initiatives at the University of Minnesota. This appropriation is funded from the Health Care Access Fund.
Agriculture and Extension Service
Both versions of the omnibus bill include approximately $85.84 million in appropriations for University agriculture and Extension services. This appropriation includes funding for renewable energy research, as well as funding for the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences to establish and provide leadership in for organic agronomic, horticultural, livestock, and food systems research, education, and outreach, and to purchase a state-of-the-art laboratory and research equipment.
The Senate bill includes $10.9 million for University health sciences, including the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, the Biomedical Engineering Center, dental care, and other health sciences research. The Senate bill also includes $1.2 million of the $1.5 million requested by the University for the health care sciences loan forgiveness program. The House bill appropriates $9.7 million and does not contain an appropriation for the health professional loan forgiveness program. Both bills dedicate $692,000 to support up to 12 resident physicians in the St. Cloud Hospital family practice residency program.
Academic Health Center
Both bills determine the share of revenue generated from tobacco taxes that the Academic Health Center will receive. It is estimated to be $22.3 million each year.
College of Science and Engineering
Both bills appropriate $2.28 million for the University's College of Science and Engineering to fund the geological survey and the talented young mathematicians program.
The Senate appropriates $10.11 million in system special appropriations, including funding for general research, industrial relations education (Labor Education Service), the Natural Resources Research Institute, the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, the Bell Museum of Natural History, and the Humphrey Exhibit. The House bill appropriates $10.34 million for these programs; however, the House increases dedicated funding for the University's Labor Education Service by $250,000 over the biennium.
University and Mayo Foundation Partnership
Both bills appropriate almost $15 million for the partnership between the University and the Mayo Foundation for research in medical genomics and biotechnology. The partnership must submit an annual report of how the appropriation is used.
The Senate higher education omnibus bill asks the University to submit three reports in 2013.
Mental Health Issues Summit
The Senate bill calls for MnSCU, in cooperation with the Minnesota commissioner of human services, to convene a summit that includes representatives from the University in order to develop a workforce plan to increase the number of mental health professionals, ensure appropriate coursework and training experience, and increase the number of culturally diverse mental health practitioners.
Research Dogs and Cats
The Senate higher education bill requires that higher education research facilities that collaborate in research with a higher education facility that confines cats or dogs for science or research purposes must first offer the cats or dogs to an incorporated nonprofit animal rescue organization prior to destroying the cats or dogs for reasons other than science or research. At the U's request, a provision is included that would limit a facility's civil liability provided it act in good faith.
The Senate bill encourages the University to recognize courses and award educational credits for courses that were part of a veteran's military training or service if these courses meet equivalent standards. The University is also encouraged to adopt a policy recognizing veteran status as a positive factor in determining whether to grant veterans admissions to an undergraduate, graduate, or professional academic degree program.
House Commerce Committee hearing on Academic Health Center
The House Commerce Committee last week heard two bills regarding the sale or transfer of ownership of Fairview Health System. The first bill requires hospitals sold or transferred to an out-of-state entity for the charitable assets received from the state must be returned to the General Fund. This bill was not voted on. The second bill legislates that if control or ownership of the University of Minnesota Hospitals is not exercised under the of the Board of Regents, then only another nonprofit corporation organized in Minnesota can have ownership or control. This bill was passed to the Committee on Rules and Administration.
Also at this hearing, Dr. Friedman and Dr. Daniels testified on the University and Fairview's relationship structure. Dr. Friedman explained to the committee how the University transferred ownership of the University of Minnesota Hospital to Fairview in 1997 and how, as a part of that transaction, the University and Fairview entered into an Academic Affiliation Agreement by which the University's Medical School and other schools of health sciences maintain comprehensive access to UMMC for education and research purposes. Dr. Daniels testified to the committee about how University of Minnesota Physicians (UMP) was created in 1997 and is the organization through which Medical School faculty physicians practice medicine and provide patient care. Dr. Daniels also testified how UMP manages and provides physician services at the University of Minnesota Medical Center and Amplatz Children's Hospital, which are owned by Fairview Health Services, as well as providing clinical services to other parts of the Fairview system. These services include cardiology, oncology, and neonatal intensive care. UMP also serves other health care systems across the state.
Initiative for Renewable Energy & the Environment
The House omnibus energy bill includes a provision that would restore funding for the Initiative for Renewable Energy & the Environment for the next two years. Last year, the Legislature eliminated the $5 million a year that funded this program. Currently there is no corresponding language in any Senate bill.
Increased funding for Center for Transportation Studies
The Senate omnibus transportation bill increases funding to the Center for Transportation Studies by $1.3 million per year. This new funding would be used for increased research in several areas including economic development along transportation corridors. The House does not have a similar provision in its omnibus transportation bill, so the differences will have to be worked out in a conference committee once both bills pass off the respective floors.
On April 22, the Senate Finance Committee heard the DREAM Act, which would grant in state tuition rates for undocumented students who have graduated from a Minnesota high school. The bill also makes these students eligible for the State Grant program. The bill passed out of the Finance Committee to the Senate Floor.
Higher education omnibus bills released
On Monday, April 8, both the House and Senate higher education committee chairs released their higher education omnibus bills. The Senate bill provides $79.8 million for funding the University's biennial budget request, while the House version provides $60.6 million. View a comparison. The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee passed its omnibus bill on Tuesday. The House version, however, is subject to amendments in the House Higher Education Committee on Monday, April 15.
Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter released a statement on Tuesday in response to these bills. More information on provisions outside of the University's budget request will be sent out next week.
Governor and House release capital investment proposals
Also on Monday, the governor released his capital investment proposal. It includes $71.7 million for the University: $15 million for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) projects systemwide and $56.7 million to fully renovate Tate Physics Laboratory. The University's request only asks for $6 million in state funding for the design of this renovation.
On Tuesday, the House released its proposal, which includes $55.7 million for projects requested by the University. These projects include HEAPR, Eddy Hall renovation, St. Paul campus laboratory replacement design, Tate Laboratory renovation design, and the Research Laboratory Improvement Fund. The House proposal provides $47 million for the Bell Museum. View a comparison of the proposals.
Next week, the University will present its request to the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.
Higher education omnibus bills to be released
Today, the House and Senate higher education committees will release their omnibus finance bills. The committees are expected to take testimony on the bills and then allow committee members to amend and discuss the merits of the bills. As you may recall, the Senate's budget proposes a $262 million increase in overall higher education spending for FY14-15, while the House's budget increase is $150 million.
Senate works with the U on higher ed performance funding metrics
The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development committee held a hearing on metrics that the University of Minnesota and the MNSCU systems would need to meet to receive 5% of their state budget allocation. The metrics would be similar but not identical to performance measures the Legislature put in place in the recent budget cycles. The University's metrics focus on graduation rates, STEM degrees, administrative costs, and invention disclosures. The University is working with the committee to establish achievable metrics.
The U moves to fully integrate with Fairview
The U has received significant attention last week at the Capitol regarding a proposal to fully integrate itself with the Fairview health system. This would revitalize the Medical School, strengthen the Minnesota's health sciences workforce pipeline, and serve the broad needs of citizens.
That said, the University is aware of discussions Fairview Health Services has been having with Sanford Health. The potential for Fairview to align with any other health system raises concerns about how any new organization would serve the people of Minnesota and advance the University's mission as the state's only public research institution, with responsibility to educate and train the next generation of health sciences professionals.
DREAM Act heard in the House and Senate
Last week, both the House and Senate higher education committees heard the Minnesota Dream Act. If enacted, the act will allow undocumented immigrant students to pay resident tuition rates at Minnesota's public higher education institutions. The bill also authorizes a way for undocumented students to receive grants and scholarships. To be eligible for resident tuition rates, a non-documented immigrant student will have to have attended a Minnesota high school for three years, graduated, and filed an affidavit with the student's college saying the student either has applied to legalize his or her status or will do so as soon as eligible. The bill will benefit an estimated 751 students in any given year, which the Office of Higher Education equates to .2% of all students enrolled at Minnesota public postsecondary institutions. The Senate referred the bill to the Finance Committee. The House took no action on the bill.
Military training and service credit
The Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee heard a bill regarding standards for awarding academic credit for military training. The bill directs MnSCU and encourages the University of Minnesota and Minnesota's private colleges and universities, when recognizing courses and awarding educational credits, to consider academic skills developed in all aspects of military training or service courses. The consideration would not be limited to physical fitness or activity components of a course.
Senate holds hearings on reconfiguration of the State Grant Program
The Senate held hearings on a proposal to go to a credit-based state grant program, as advocated by the MNSCU system and its student association. They claim the current state grant system disadvantages part-time students. The Dayton administration, in testimony before the Office of Higher Education, expressed reservations about the proposal. Senator Bonoff, chair of the committee, has offered a proposal of her own on the state grant program and has asked committee members for their input as they work to put together an omnibus bill.
Legislative budget targets announced
The Minnesota House and Senate majority parties released their higher education budget targets on March 19 and March 20, respectively. These budget targets set funding levels for higher education, including the Office of Higher Education, University of Minnesota, and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. As you may recall from last week, Governor Dayton's revised budget calls for a $253 million increase in overall higher education spending for FY14-15, including $80 million for the University. The Senate's budget target proposes a $262 million increase in overall higher education spending for FY14-15, while the House's budget target is over $100 million less at $150 million. Both bodies are working on the breakdown of these spending targets as they put together their higher education omnibus bills. This past week legislators took a spring break; more details on University funding will be coming next week as omnibus bills are developed.
Director Pogemiller presents governor's proposal
The House Higher Education Committee met only once last week do to an extended floor session on Wednesday. The committee focused on two bills, one of which was the governor's higher education proposal for FY14-15. As mentioned when the governor released his bill, it provides equal increased funding ($80 million each) for the U, MnSCU, and the state grant program. Director of the Office of Higher Education Larry Pogemiller presented the bill on behalf of the governor. Pogemiller was not able to get through his entire presentation and will continue it next week.
Senate committee explores higher ed performance measures, omnibus provisions
On March 19, the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee heard a presentation from Jim Applegate, vice president of strategic impact for the Lumina Foundation on best practices of the use of performance measures in higher education. Mr. Applegate laid out what his organization sees as effective ways to entice higher education institutions to meet desired outcomes. His presentations focused on measures of success for systems, including improving graduation rates, improving degrees granted, and increasing the percentage of students of color getting degrees. He encouraged the committee to use performance measures and offered his organization's assistance to the committee as it works on its bill.
The committee heard a number of bills last week that were laid over for possible inclusion in the Senate omnibus higher education bill. First, a bill appropriating $1 million each year of the biennium to fund the Teach for America program. Second, a bill that would fund Minitex and MnLink Gateway programs. Minitex is a publicly supported network of academic, public, state government, and special libraries working cooperatively to improve service for their users in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The system is housed at the University. MnLINK is a statewide virtual library that electronically links major Minnesota libraries. The bill restores funding that was eliminated in earlier sessions.
Also a bill was introduced to eliminate a mandate that all organizations that offer higher education courses must register and pay a fee through the Office of Higher Education. The author of the bill, Senator Jeremy Miller (R-Winona), explained that Massive Open Online Courses are free, but some do charge for proctored exams, identity checks, and certifications. He noted that each higher education institution would be able to determine if it accepts this type of coursework. The bill deals with a brand new type of educational opportunity that did not exist until this past year.
Health insurance exchange legislation
The health insurance exchange bill was passed and signed into law before legislators went on spring break, and the bill now has an official name: MNsure. By April 30, the governor will appoint six MNsure board members to serve along with Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. The board member selection is an open application process. The bill establishes a new state agency named "The Marketplace," which will work in tandem with insurance carriers to sell plans through a state website that is projected to cost $60 million annually and be funded by a 1.5 percent withholding fee on each policy sold through the exchange. For 2014, all health plans that meet federal certification requirements will be allowed in the exchange. By 2015, however, the governing board could adopt further criteria and policies that would allow the board to select which plans are included in the exchange. The governing board is subject to the Data Practices Act. The Office of the Legislative Auditor will have authority to audit The Marketplace.
Medical Education and Research Costs (MERC)
While the budget targets were positive for the Higher Education Committee, the same cannot be said for the Health and Human Services budget. Both the House and Senate committees were given similar negative targets. The House needs to find $150 million in savings, while the Senate needs to find $153 million in savings for FY14-15. The HHS negative targets are concerning, since they affect part of the budget where the University is seeking an increase in MERC monies both in the general formula and in the direct appropriation to the University. The MERC Fund was established in 1996 and was funded by the Legislature for the first time in 1997. Its purpose is to provide support for medical education activities in Minnesota.
LCCMR makes recommendations
The Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) has made its recommendations to the Legislature on the use of the environment and natural resources trust fund. The bill provides a total appropriation of $33.81 million in FY14 and $4.35 million in FY15 from the environment and natural resources trust fund. Of this amount, $8.7 million is included for the development and support of the University's new aquatic invasive species center. And $2 million is included for the purchase of land for the arboretum. The LCCMR is made up of 17 members: five senators, five representatives, five citizens appointed by the governor, one citizen appointed by the Senate, and one citizen appointed by the House. LCCMR makes funding recommendations to the Legislature for special environment and natural resource projects, primarily from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.
Governor Dayton revises budget
Yesterday, Governor Dayton released his supplemental budget in response to the February forecast and criticism from the business community about his tax proposals in January. While the revised budget no longer includes the sales tax proposal, it does include an increased tax on tobacco and the creation of a fourth tier tax bracket. This budget proposal is estimated to create $1.816 billion in revenue, of which $627 million would be directed to the state budget deficit.
The governor's support for the University's biennial budget request remains unchanged from January; this is good news. View a financial breakdown of the proposals.
Kaler presents preliminary study findings to Legislature, budget request to House
This week, President Kaler testified in three higher education hearings: two in the House and one in the Senate. First, he shared the findings of the spans and layers analysis requested by Senate leaders, as well as an overview of cost benchmarking that will be conducted in human resources, information technology, finance operations, and procurement. His presentation also highlighted operational excellence efforts already under way. Afterwards, in the House Higher Education Committee, Kaler presented the University's budget request for the first time.
Medical amnesty legislation
The House Public Safety Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings this week on a bill that would protect from prosecution a person under the age of 21 who consumes or possesses an alcoholic beverage if any of the following circumstances exist: 1) the person voluntarily seeks, or accompanies another person voluntarily seeking, assistance at a health facility or detoxification program; 2) the person initiates contact with a peace officer, emergency medical services personnel, or 911 operator to report that another person is in need of medical assistance, provided that the person who initiates the contact is the first person to make a report, give a name and contact information, and remains and cooperates with the authorities at the scene. This protection extends to one or two persons acting in concert with the caller, provided they also give contact information and remain and cooperate at the scene.
The University's Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition and undergraduate student president testified in favor of this bill. The students said the bill would encourage students to call when a friend or roommate is in need of help. Members on both committees expressed concerns about not holding a person responsible for committing the crime of minor consumption and underage possession. The St. Paul City Attorney's Office and Sherriff Association testified in opposition to the bill. The opposition said the bill sanctions criminal behavior, and they are concerned that the bill does not limit how many times someone can use the immunity. Rep. Liebling committed to working with interested parties before the next hearing on an amendment to address that concern. In the House the bill was passed to the Judiciary Committee, and in the Senate to the floor.
Dream Act passes to Senate Finance Committee
On March 14, the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee heard a bill that would require Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, and request the University of Minnesota, to allow undocumented students to qualify for resident tuition rates or the equivalent, if the students meet all of the following requirements: 1) high school attendance within the state for three or more years; 2) graduation from a state high school or attainment within the state of the equivalent of high school graduation; 3) in the case of a student without lawful immigration status, the filing of an affidavit with the institution of higher education stating that the student has filed an application to legalize the student's immigration status or will file an application at the earliest opportunity the student is eligible to do so. This legislation is also known as the Dream Act. Louis Mendoza, chair of the Department of Chicano Studies at the University, testified in favor of the bill, saying, "Passing the Dream Act can help diminish the achievement gap." The bill was passed to the Senate Finance Committee.
Research dogs and cats legislation
This week the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee heard a bill that would require higher education institutions that receive public funding, or a facility that provides research in collaboration with a higher education institution, and confine dogs or cats for research purposes and plans to destroy them, to first offer the dog or cat to an animal rescue organization. The bill was amended slightly to clarify that the dogs and cats may be destroyed if it is necessary for the medical research and was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus higher education bill. State relations staff are working with the bill's author, Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), to address a number of University concerns as this bill moves through the legislative process.
Veteran preference policy legislation
Earlier this week a bill was heard in the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee that would require MnSCU, and encourages the U, to consider veterans status as a positive factor in determining admission to a graduate or professional school. Both a veteran and a graduate student testified in support of the bill, saying that this preference will be helpful, since often times a veteran's real life experiences do not translate directly to academic experiences but do lead to a great student. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the higher education omnibus bill.
Mental health summit legislation
Last week, the Senate Higher Education Committee heard a bill that would create a "mental health summit" for the purpose of developing a workforce plan to tackle mental health issues. The University is named in the bill as one of the institutions to participate in the summit. The goal of the bill is to increase the number of mental health practitioners in the state and to increase diversity within this field of practice. The bill's author, Senator Clausen (DFL – Apple Valley) cited an interview with the University's Dr. Schulz on why Minnesota should increase the number of mental health professionals in the state.
MOOCs continue to gain momentum
Last week, the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee heard a presentation from Anant Agarwal, president of edX, a massive open online course (MOOC) platform created by Harvard University and MIT to provide high-quality, free online courses. This is the second presentation on MOOCs that the committee has heard this year; a few weeks ago the committee heard from Coursera. Chair Terri Bonoff has stated that MOOCs appear to be an opportunity to help address the costs of higher education. Committee members asked extensive questions about the ability of MOOCs to help students with remedial work and the possibility of speeding up graduation timelines.
Legislature elects four regents
Last Wednesday, the Minnesota Legislature convened for a joint session to elect four regents to govern the University of Minnesota. Of the four seats up for election, two were at-large, one was for a student representative, and one was for a fifth congressional district representative. The legislature re-elected Regents Dean Johnson and Linda Cohen for the at-large seats on the board. The legislators then elected Abdul Omari to serve as the student representative and Peggy Lucas to the fill the seat representing the fifth congressional district. The regents assumed their roles immediately at last week's March board meeting which began on Thursday morning, March 7.
Regents meet with legislators
Several regents have been visiting with legislators in conjunction with state relations staff over the last few weeks to advocate for the U's 2014-15 biennial budget request. During these the meetings, legislators have asked great questions about tuition, research, and loan forgiveness.
Governor addresses "First Tuesday"
Governor Dayton delivered remarks to over 400 attendees at the Carlson School of Management's monthly "First Tuesday" event on March 5. In his speech, the governor defended his proposed tax reform package, which is currently being debated by the state Legislature and, specifically, his proposed business-to-business sales taxes. This part of the tax reform package has come under scrutiny by the business community, but the governor candidly acknowledged at the "First Tuesday" event that the state needs the additional revenue.
February Economic Forecast released
Thursday marked the release of the much anticipated February Economic Forecast, in which Minnesota Management & Budget projects a budget shortfall of $627 million for fiscal year 2014-15. This marks an improvement of $463 million over the previously forecasted $1.09 billion deficit.
The improvement comes from a projected $323 million revenue increase, a $117 million spending decrease, and a $23 million reduction in net reserves.
The forecast projects a $295 million positive balance in the current fiscal year. Statute requires that $290 million be directed to offset K-12 shifts and $5 million go into the state's reserves.
While this news is positive, it does little to change current legislative budget talks, as spending and revenue levels still leave structural deficits for future fiscal years. The forecast predicts a surplus of $782 million for 2016-2017. However, when adjusted for inflation, there is a $1.5 billion projected deficit for 2016-2017.
Higher education student loan refinancing program study
Last week, the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee considered a bill requiring the Office of Higher Education (OHE) to study the feasibility of a student loan refinancing program for higher education. The program would allow OHE to issue bonds to help students refinance student loans at a lower interest rate.
The study must include an analysis of the following:
The bill was laid on the table for possible inclusion in the Senate's higher education omnibus bill.
Senate Higher Ed Committee learns about MOOCs
On Tuesday, Dr. Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera presented to the Senate Higher Education Committee on the success of its massive online open courses (MOOCs). Dr. Koller shared Coursera's class offerings and explained how classes are designed to help a person master the material. Coursera lecture concepts are broken down into 10-15 minute video clips to make material more digestible and to enable students to have more control over their learning preferences. Dr. Koller also highlighted the interactive quizzes that are embedded throughout the course and how the quizzes provide immediate feedback to students (whether the answer is right or wrong) in order to increase material retention. Coursera students are able to practice critical thinking and interpretive skills by answering essay-style questions, which do not have clear right or wrong answers.
On Thursday, the University of Minnesota announced it will partner with Coursera to develop five free online courses as part of the university's efforts to improve teaching and learning through technology.
Greater Minnesota internship program
Yesterday, the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee heard a bill that would provide a tax credit to businesses in greater Minnesota who hire students for internships and require higher education institutions to provide students with credit for these internships. The legislation states the purpose of the bill is to "employ and provide valuable experience to Minnesota students; and foster long-term relationships between the students and greater Minnesota employers." This bill was initiated last year by the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and, if passed, would be administered by the Office of Higher Education. The University estimates 166 U students would take advantage of this program. The bill passed out of the committee and was referred to the Tax Committee.
Liquor bill introduced in the House
Yesterday, Representative Dan Schoen (DFL – St. Paul Park) introduced a bill that would allow liquor to be sold to the general public at Williams and Mariucci arenas. Our office is currently assessing its potential impacts.
Kaler to present administrative cost report
President Kaler will present the U's administrative costs report to the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on Tuesday, March 12. Senate leaders requested the report last month following a Wall Street Journal article on higher education administrative costs across the nation.
February economic forecast to be released next week
The Minnesota Management and Budget Office will release its economic forecast for the state on Thursday, February 28. It is important because state legislators will use this forecast to develop the 2014-2015 biennial budget.
Kaler presents biennial budget request to Senate committee
Last week, President Kaler presented the University's 2014-15 budget request to the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee. Accompanying him were several members of the Board of Regents, and four faculty members who testified on the importance of the MnDRIVE program proposal. The faculty spoke to their area of expertise within the four research initiatives: developing environmentally sound mining and industry; advancing robotics, sensors, and advanced manufacturing; securing the global food supply; and treating brain conditions.
Also testifying in support of the University's budget were several students who spoke on the tuition freeze and loan forgiveness programs. Chris Policinski, CEO of Land 'O Lakes Inc., testified about his experience as a business leader with the University's high caliber graduates who are interns with his company and who ultimately become his employees. He also testified to the importance of the MnDRIVE initiatives, in particular the research to secure the global food supply.
Pfutzenreuter continues presentation on U finances
Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter appeared before the House Higher Education Committee on February 4, 6, and 11. He presented details on University finances, including tuition rates and the U's budget process. The third session focused on the University's reserves, including unexpended funds, debt coverage, and liquidity. The committee was particularly interested in how the University determines the appropriate level for unexpended funds.
Next week, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MnSCU), and the Office of Higher Education will present on the same topics. Once these presentations are over, it is expected that President Kaler will be invited to testify on behalf of the University's budget request for 2014-15.
Support the U Day
Hundreds of students from all five campuses attended last week's Support the U Day at the Capitol, along with the Board of Regents, President Kaler, staff, and alumni. Organized by the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition, event participants urged support for the U's proposed two-year tuition freeze for resident undergrads. Rally speakers included Director Larry Pogemiller, Senator Terri Bonoff, Representative Gene Pelowski, and Representative Phyllis Kahn.
On the same day, the Senate Higher Education committee invited the University's Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GAPSA) and two MnSCU student groups to testify. Both University groups testified in favor of the U's 2014-15 budget request, open text book legislation, and medical amnesty as way to provide medical help for underage and binge drinking. The GAPSA students highlighted topics they hope to address in the future, including mental health and gun ownership, immigration reform, and affordability in higher education.
CFANS and Extension highlighted in Senate hearing
Dean Beverly Durgan and Dean Allen Levine presented overviews of Extension and College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) to the Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on Wednesday, February 13. The hearing provided the opportunity to educate legislators on how Extension and CFANS serve Minnesota and the agriculture community.
Dean Levine emphasized the broad array of majors available to CFANS students and the impact the college's research is having on Minnesota and nationwide agriculture practices. Dean Durgan testified on how Extension improves Minnesotan's quality of life through its statewide educational programs. She explained how Extension disseminates the University's research to citizens to help solve Minnesota's challenges.
State of the State
On Wednesday, February 6, Governor Mark Dayton delivered his State of the State Address. The governor focused on his plan to address the $1.1 billion budget deficit through an overhaul of Minnesota's tax system. He advocated for his plan to increase Minnesota's investment in higher education. "In every biennium since FY80-81, real state spending for all of postsecondary education has been higher than it is today," he said.
Kalers hosts House members at Eastcliff
Over the last several weeks, President and Mrs. Kaler have hosted three different receptions at Eastcliff for members of House committees on agriculture, health care, and higher education. Many new House members and some veteran members took advantage of these opportunities to have more relaxed conversation with the University's senior leadership on topics of concern at the legislature including the U's budget and capital requests.
Two new legislators join the legislature
On Tuesday, two special elections were held to fill House seats left vacant by former Representatives Steve Gottwalt and Terry Morrow. Both parties retained one seat. In House District 14A, Tama Theis (R) won with 54.5 percent of the vote, while Clark Johnson (DFL) won House District 19A with 53.7 percent.
Theis holds an associate degree in applied science from St. Cloud Technical and Community College and is the co-owner and office manager of Greg E. Theis Remodeling. Johnson holds a bachelor of arts from Michigan State University, and a bachelor of science and a master of science from Minnesota State University, where he works as the student relations coordinator and social studies coordinator.
Senators visit Twin Cities campus
At the request of the Senate Higher Education Committee chair, Terri Bonoff, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities hosted members of the State Senate on January 29. Thirteen senators and a number of staff toured the new cancer and cardiovascular research building. They heard from Dr. Friedman and Dr. Vickers regarding the importance of the Biomedical Discovery District and its potential impact on the state and nation. Dr. Friedman provided an overview of the Academic Health Center, and Dr. Vickers shared his emerging research in pancreatic cancer treatments. The senators also took part in an active learning classroom experience lead by Dr. Robin Wright, associate dean for the College of Biological Sciences. After the tour, the senators attended a reception at Eastcliff with U senior leaders.
House committee reviews U finances
At the request of the House Higher Education Committee chair, on January 28 and 30, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter presented detailed information on University finances, including tuition rates and the U's budget process. Mr. Pfutzenreuter will be back in front of the committee on February 4 and 6 to continue his presentation. The hearings are expected to highlight student fees, budget reserves, student debt, and budget reduction impacts.
Center for Transportation Studies
The Center for Transportation Studies held a seminar, Future Approaches for Transportation Finance in Minnesota, on Thursday evening, January 31, for the Minnesota House and Senate Transportation Committees. Despite the bitter temperatures, over 40 legislators and staff came to the University to hear about the latest in transportation research.
The seminar covered four topics in transportation finance: Transportation Funding in Minnesota: Past, Present, and Future Prospects; Potential for Public Private Partnerships in Minnesota; Utilizing Value Capture Strategies; and Pricing Strategies from the U.S. and Other Countries. After the seminar, the legislators commented on how helpful the information will be as they do their work this session.
Kaler to testify on U budget request at Senate Higher Education Committee hearing
President Kaler and the Board of Regent candidates have been asked to come before the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on Tuesday, February 5. President Kaler will be presenting the University's 2014-15 budget request. Also testifying on behalf of the U's request will be Chris Policinski, CEO of Land 'O Lakes, Inc., four faculty leading the MnDRIVE research initiatives, and several students on the tuition freeze and loan forgiveness programs.
The Board of Regent candidates have also been asked to introduce themselves to the committee members. The joint meeting where the House and Senate nominate which candidates to move forward for election will be held on February 26.
Governor Dayton releases his 2014-15 biennial budget recommendations
On January 22, Governor Dayton released his 2014–15 biennial budget recommendations. The state’s next biennium is forecasted to have a $1.1 billion budget deficit. The governor announced that his budget will eliminate the deficit and balance government spending and revenue over the next two fiscal years.
Dayton’s recommendations include lowering the sales tax rate from 6.875 percent to 5.5 percent, while broadening the tax to many goods and services that are currently exempt. He is also asking the Legislature to create a new income tax bracket for the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans and to raise the cigarette tax an additional 94 cents per pack. In addition to his revenue proposals, Dayton called for funding increases totaling $732 million for the biennium, including a $240 million increase in higher education funding, $118 million in K-12 funding ($52 in new money for every student in the state), and $86.5 million in economic development.
The University’s budget request totaled $91.6 million. The governor recommended a total of $80 million, including:
The only item not included in the governor’s budget is an $11.5 million Allocation Fund, which would have released monies based upon the U achieving at least three of five different performance metrics, including increased financial aid and increased invention disclosures.
The allocation of the governor’s recommended budget amounts for the U will be detailed in his supplemental budget, which will reflect both the February 28 state economic forecast and a March 15 preliminary report to the Legislature on U administrative costs. In his comments, the governor said he is “strongly committed to supporting the University of Minnesota and its vital mission of research, innovation, and education.”
Vice President for University Services brings forward capital investment requests
Vice President for University Services Pamela Wheelock presented the University’s 2013 capital request to the House Capital Investment Committee on January 22. Ms. Wheelock outlined seven request items approved by the Board of Regents, including one for HEAPR (Higher Education Asset Prevention and Replacement) funding.
Between the University and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system, the public higher education institutions request was more than $300 million in bond proceeds. The University’s request from the state is $172.7 million. The MnSCU request was $148.5 million.
HEAPR is the largest capital funding request for both systems. These dollars are usually allocated to preserve or retrofit existing facilities, including projects for code compliance, hazardous material abatement, and heating and ductwork to make buildings more efficient and reduce operating expenses. The University is requesting $125 million in HEAPR funds for 100 projects; MnSCU is requesting $90 million for 114 projects.
Annual Legislative Briefing
The annual Legislative Briefing was a huge success. The event was held on Wednesday evening, January 23. Nearly 450 people attended. Guests included members of the Board of Regents, the UMAA board chair, board members (past and current), faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, and community members. President Kaler presented the U’s legislative request for the 2013 session, and he encouraged those attending to communicate their support of the U and its budget request to their legislators. During his remarks, the president shared a wonderful story of a pharmacy student and how the U’s loan forgiveness proposal would help her realize her dream to bring health care to those who need it most.
Coming up at the Capitol
Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter will provide the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee with a financial overview of the University on Monday, January 28, and Wednesday, January 30. He has been asked to present on tuition rates, student fees, University’s reserves, and more.
Legislative session begins, seats vacated
On January 8, both the Minnesota House and Senate convened for the 88th legislative session. For the first time in 22 years, the DFL control both bodies of the legislative branch, as well as the executive branch. Sixty-two legislators are beginning their first terms. Out of 201 legislators, 42 are University graduates.
Two members of the House, Rep. Terry Morrow (DFL–St. Peter) and Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R–St. Cloud), resigned from the Legislature last Monday after accepting job opportunities. The special elections to fill these seats will be held on February 12. Representative Morrow's resignation leaves vacant the vice chair position of the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee.
Visit the links below for committee membership information:
President Kaler holds press briefing at Capitol
On Friday, President Kaler held a press briefing at the Capitol to discuss the University's 2014–15 biennial budget request. The briefing highlighted each component of the request, including the tuition freeze for resident undergraduate students, the MnDRIVE program to advance research for key state industries, and measures to increase U accountability to the state. President Kaler emphasized that the request aims to renew a partnership with the state and to address some of the state's most pressing challenges.
After Kaler's presentation, the media asked questions about recent articles on administrative costs and tuition rates for resident versus nonresident undergraduate students. He also responded to a request for details on the U's 2013 capital investment needs. Throughout the briefing, the president expressed his continued commitment to reducing costs and holding the U accountable to students, the public, and state lawmakers.
President Kaler responds to media criticisms
In response to concerns that have recently appeared in the press regarding administrative costs, President Kaler has been visiting with elected officials in St. Paul, including the chairs of the Senate and House higher education committees, clarifying misinformation about data that was used by media, and giving examples of how the U has reduced costs and become more efficient.
The president agreed to a Senate request to conduct an external management structure analysis (commonly referred to "spans and layers"), which will be used to benchmark the U against its national peers. A progress report on the analysis will be provided to the Senate in mid-March.
Board of Regents approves 2013 capital request
Last month, the Board of Regents approved the University's 2013 capital request. The request asks the state to invest $172.7 million to renovate, replace, and expand buildings that will ensure that the U can continue to fulfill its statewide mission. While the House has expressed interest in passing a significant capital investment bill, the Senate and the governor have not publicly addressed this issue.
Our staff has begun meeting with legislators, legislative staff, and the governor's office regarding these projects. View the 2013 capital request presentation to the Board of Regents.
Contact our office with legislation questions
On Wednesday, the Legislature introduced the first bills of the biennium, which marked the start of bill tracking for the Office of Government and Community Relations. Our office is responsible for reading each bill, determining its impact on the University, and notifying appropriate University personnel. Please contact us if you have any legislation questions throughout the session.
State faces $1.1 billion deficit, fiscal cliff looms
Yesterday, Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) released the November economic forecast, which showed a surplus in the current biennium and some reduction in the last projected deficit for the 2014-15 biennium.
The $1.3 billion surplus spells some relief for the state and K-12 schools. According to state statute, the surplus is automatically directed to the schools to pay back monies borrowed by the state to help balance previous biennial budgets.
By MMB accounts, the economic situation is improving but the outcome of fiscal cliff negotiations leave much uncertainty. Congress and the president have not yet reached an agreement to address the fiscal cliff, which is the set of budget cuts and tax increases that will take place if there is no action by December 31. The results of the negotiations could have broad effects on Minnesota's economy, especially through endangered federal funding.
Governor Dayton will present a budget to the legislature in January based on the MMB forecast.
Majority DFL announces Senate committee membership
The DFL announced Senate committee membership for all their caucus members last week, giving Minnesotans some idea of what the new majority's priorities will be. The Republican members of these committees have not yet been announced.
The Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, chaired by Senator Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka, will have seven DFL members, including Senators Kent Eken (DFL – Twin Valley), Susan Kent (DFL – Woodbury), Tony Lourey (DFL – Kerrick), Kathy Sheran (DFL – Mankato), Dan Sparks (DFL – Austin), and Patricia Torres Ray (DFL – Minneapolis). Senator Greg Clausen will serve as vice chair of the committee.
More information on the DFL members of the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.
Senators tour Twin Cities Campus
Senator Terri Bonoff (DFL – Minnetonka), incoming chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, and Senator Carla Nelson (R – Rochester) toured the Twin Cities campus on November 27. Each senator sat down with President Kaler and discussed the University's biennial budget request.
Each senator toured the One Stop Student Services Center and active learning classrooms at the Science Teaching and Student Services building to observe some of the ways investment by the Minnesota legislature directly benefit students. University staff explained how these classrooms support student-centered teaching techniques and are improving student learning. From there the senators traveled to the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Center and the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research. Senator Bonoff also toured the Stem Cell Institute, where Dr. Jakob Tolar highlighted his groundbreaking research.
Government and Community Relations welcomes new staff member
Christine Kiel will be joining the Office of Government and Community Relations beginning January 8, 2013, as assistant director for state relations. Christine will have responsibility for state related health and human services issues, along with shared responsibility for U budget and capital investment matters.
Christine has over 14 years of state legislative experience. Since 2011, she has served as the committee administrator for the Human Services Finance Committee at the Minnesota House of Representatives. Prior to that she served in several roles, including director of legislative affairs at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, director of legislative affairs at the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, committee administrator for the Senate State Government Budget Division, and research specialist for health, human services, and commerce issues at the Minnesota State Senate.
Christine is a 1995 graduate from the University of Minnesota Duluth.
New legislative majority announces new leadership
The new DFL majority in the Minnesota Legislature has announced leaders for their caucuses and committees. These new leaders will undoubtedly usher in a new set of policy priorities when the 2013 legislative session begins on January 8.
The Senate DFL caucus elected Senator Tom Bakk of Cook to the position of Senate Majority Leader. Bakk is a fourth-term legislator and was the Senate Minority Leader last session. Senator Katie Sieben of Cottage Grove was elected Assistant Majority Leader. Senator Sandy Pappas, an eight-term legislator from St. Paul and former DFL lead for higher education, was elected President of the Senate. The Republicans in the Senate elected Senator David Hann of Eden Prairie to the position of Senate Minority Leader.
In the House, former Minority Leader and Minneapolis Representative Paul Thissen was elected Speaker of the House. Representative Erin Murphy of St. Paul was elected House Majority Leader. Committee leadership in the House has not yet been announced. Republicans in the House elected Representative Kurt Daudt from Crown, beginning only his second term, as House Minority Leader.
Committee leadership for the House and Senate was also announced. The Senate appointed Minnetonka's Senator Terri Bonoff as chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee. Bonoff, a former businesswoman and four-term legislator, has been a longtime member of the K-12 Education Committee and has made education policy a major focus of her legislative career. In the House, Representative Gene Pelowski of Winona was appointed to chair the Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee. Pelowski, an educator, is beginning his fourteenth term in the House.
New leaders in the House and Senate will be officially confirmed in their roles when the legislature convenes in January. Print leadership information here.
Biennial budget request presented to state officials
President Kaler presented the University's budget request last week to Commissioner Schowalter of Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB), Director Pogemiller of the Office of Higher Education, and the governor's chief of staff, Tina Smith, as well as several MMB staff members. The presentation offered an opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with these key members of the governor's administration about the details of the U's request and the thought behind its various initiatives.
President Kaler offered his vision on the budget request, emphasizing the critical role the University of Minnesota plays in the health and vitality of the state. He went into depth on how each component of the request builds on strengths at the University and in the state at large and how with modest investment the state will realize significant gains. The governor's budget will be released in mid-January, with recommendations from his staff being delivered to him in mid-December.
DFL wins majority in the Minnesota House and Senate
As a result of Tuesday's election, the DFL will regain control of both the Minnesota House and Senate when the legislature convenes on January 8, 2013. Although results are still unofficial, according to the Secretary of State's website, the Senate will be composed of 39 DFL and 28 Republican members, while the House will be made up of 73 DFL and 61 Republican members. Of these legislators, 63 members will be joining the legislature for the first time.
Results will be made official on November 27 after verification from the state canvassing board. This will allow ample time for all races to be fully settled, including House District 8B and Senate District 20, which were close enough to trigger an automatic recount.
With Governor Mark Dayton, the DFL now controls the entire lawmaking process, which has not occurred since 1990. The focus of the upcoming session will be on developing a biennial budget, which may include a major tax reform initiative from the governor. Other issues will certainly arise, but the state's fiscal health will dominate most of the session.
Yesterday, both the House and Senate DFL elected party leaders. In the Senate, Tom Bakk will become the majority leader and Sandy Pappas, former Higher Education Committee chair, will become president. In the House, Paul Thissen will serve as the speaker and Erin Murphy will become majority leader. Committee chairs and Republican leadership are yet to be decided.
Over the next weeks, the Office of Government and Community Relations will work to strengthen these key relationships and to continue to garner support for the U's biennial budget request. Before the legislative session begins, our office will be educating new legislators about the U's value and impact. Efforts will include one-on-one meetings and, in January, a new legislator orientation about the University.
Biennial budget request to be presented to MMB and governor next week
On Friday, November 16, President Eric Kaler and other University staff will present the U's biennial budget request to staff from the governor's office and Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB). This is one of the first steps in the process, as the governor begins to develop his biennial budget recommendations to present to the legislature in January.
The University's request can be found here.
Board of Regents approves biennial budget legislative request
Last week, the Board of Regents approved President Kaler's 2014-2015 biennial budget proposal. This legislative request supports an undergraduate tuition freeze, a loan forgiveness program for graduating health care professionals who work in underserved areas of the state, and tax reforms to help students pay for college.
The request also includes the creation of the Minnesota Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy (MnDRIVE) program to fund research to support Minnesota's most promising industries. At the Board of Regents meeting, Vice President for Research Tim Mulcahy and University faculty presented on the four MnDRIVE program initiatives. View their presentation.
The regents praised the legislative request, particularly its emphasis on accountability. President Kaler will present this budget request to the Minnesota legislature when the next legislative session convenes on January 8, 2013.
Sorenson talks about new Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center
Peter Sorensen, a professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, presented to local legislators and lake associations in Otter Tail County last week about the U's new Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MN AIS). This new research center was funding by the Minnesota legislature last session and will conduct research to help protect the state's aquatic ecosystems. View the press release.
Kaler proposes state biennial budget request to regents
President Kaler presented his biennial budget request proposal to the Board of Regents last week. The University will submit this request to the governor and the legislature for their consideration during the next legislative session, which starts on January 8, 2013. The board will take final action on the proposal at its October meeting.
A key component of the proposal is a base tuition freeze for Minnesota undergraduate students on all U of M campuses in 2014 and 2015. A tuition freeze would save a typical Twin Cities campus student more than $2,500 over their four years at the University. The freeze will be possible if the state provides an incremental $14.2 million in each of the two years of the biennium.
The president's proposal responds to the historical shift in who pays for higher education, which has been the result of state disinvestment in this public good. Nationally, higher education funding is down an average of 20 percent, but in Minnesota it has dropped 35 percent between 2000 and 2010. Even though state funding is at 1998 levels, the University serves 15 percent more students now than it did in 1998.
In the budget proposal, President Kaler commits to reducing operating costs in 2014 and 2015 by $28 million and ties part of the U's budget request to achieving certain goals such as:
• Increasing institutional financial aid
• Awarding at least 15,000 degrees systemwide in 2014
• Increasing undergraduate graduation rates on the Twin Cities campus
The president introduced a new initiative called the Minnesota Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy (MNDRIVE) Program to invest in critical research that advances Minnesota's economy. It will focus research in:
• Robotics, sensors, and advanced manufacturing
• Securing the global food supply
• Advancing industry and conserving our environment
• Advancing discoveries and treatments for brain conditions (i.e., neuromodulation)
The budget requests $1.5 million to be used by the U to partially forgive loans of graduating health care professionals who work in underserved areas of the state.
President Kaler's proposal also aims to reform how students and their families pay for higher education by fostering a new partnership with the state by discussing tax and other policies that will offer:
• New State tax credits for students and their families
• New or enhanced State tax credits for those who want to contribute to scholarships
If fully funded by the legislature, this budget request would bring the U back to the same amount of funding received in 2001.
Kaler discusses proposal with the governor and legislators
President Kaler met with Governor Dayton and members of his senior staff last week to brief him on the U's legislative budget request. The meeting familiarized the governor with the tuition, research, and tax components of the request and how the request can address student and state needs and drive Minnesota's economy forward. President Kaler has also been meeting with legislative leaders during the past few weeks doing the same. The governor will make his budget recommendations to the legislature later this year, and the legislature will debate those recommendations during the 2013 legislative session.
Senate Capital Investment Committee Tours Campus
Members of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, along with 10 key senate staff, toured the Twin Cities campus on Wednesday, August 22. Provost Karen Hanson welcomed them, stressing the strong academic profile of U students and the quality of the University's educational programing. University Services Vice-President Pam Wheelock also welcomed the committee, citing the strong partnership between the state and the University to ensure that students have a physical campus environment to best position them for learning success.
Carlson School of Management dean Sri Zaheer provided comments to the group on Hanson Hall, a building that received $26 million in state support in 2006. Dean Zaheer said the Carlson School of Management has increased its number of students from 1,900 to 2,350, four years ahead of schedule. The dean emphasized that students attending Carlson would likely have left the state had they not decided to attend the University. She also noted that 89 percent of Carlson's 2011 graduating class had a job within 90 days of graduation.
The committee then boarded a bus and drove by the old main power plant, with Associate Vice President Mike Berthelsen describing the renovation that will create a new power and steam plant. The legislature awarded the University $10 million for the project in the recently completed session.
Dean Steven Crouch of the College of Science and Engineering then met the committee and outlined the benefits of the new physics and nanotechnology building. The legislature approved $55 million for the building in the 2011 Special Session. Dean Crouch stressed the public-private partnerships that will take place in the nanotech portion of the building, as well as the unique research that will happen throughout. He the building was critical for his college in attracting key faculty and freeing up space so that much needed renovations on some historic buildings could take place.
Vice President for Research Tim Mulcahy then led the group down to the MN NMR facility in the old Mayo garage. The University received $12.5 million from the state to move the facility from Hasselmo Hall to its new home. This one-of-a-kind facility in the upper Midwest provides instrumentation for over a $100 million in federally sponsored research work at the University. Vice President Mulcahy said that without state help on this project the University and the state would have suffered serious losses to their research portfolio.
Vice President and CFO Pfutzenreuter then described the proposed Ambulatory Care Center. He explained the need for new clinic space to teach tomorrow's doctors, and for better public access to University clinic facilities.
The bus then took the committee to the Bio Medical Discovery District, where Vice Presidents Mulcahy and Pfutzenreuter outlined the progress on a series of projects approved in 2008, when the legislature designated $292 million in bonding (of which the state provided $219 million) for four buildings. The University is just completing the second and third buildings, with the fourth in the final design stages.
The committee then stopped at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, the first project in the Bio Medical Discovery District. They listened to a presentation by Dr. Michael Garwood, a world leader in magnetic imaging, outlining some of the center's exciting research in this new area of medical science.
Then it was back to the Capitol for the committee, after the very full four-hour tour.
The legislature convened for a one-day special session on Friday, August 24. The purpose of the session was to pass a $167.5 million bill to provide disaster relief for victims of the flooding in northeastern Minnesota this summer. The bill is targeted at the victims that are ineligible for federal disaster assistance. This limited agenda was agreed to by the leadership of all four caucuses in advance of the governor's calling the special session.
Kaler cruises into Duluth
President Kaler visited the Duluth campus on August 6, as part of the Office of Government and Community Relations legislative visits series. The morning began with an on-camera interview with Almanac North to highlight the U's mission and its impact in northeastern Minnesota. The president was asked questions about U research, its land and sea grant missions, the rising cost of college, and how the U works to foster relationships between higher education and business communities.
From there, President Kaler and Chancellor Black hosted a luncheon for northeastern area legislators. The luncheon included a presentation from Elaine Hanson, director of the Center for Economic Development, about the center's impact on the area and job creation. Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Andrea Schokker presented on infrastructure advancements resulting from UMD research.
After the luncheon, the president, chancellor, and legislators, which included Lieutenant Governor Prettner Solon, Representative Tom Huntley, and Senator Roger Reinert, boarded the Blue Heron research vessel for a short voyage and to view a few demonstrations. UMD faculty shared the importance of research projects that can be conducted on this one-of-a-kind ship. Current research efforts include studying the impact of flooding, climate change, and aquatic invasive species. View pictures and media coverage of this voyage.
Support the U at the Minnesota State Fair
Like the rest of the state, the University of Minnesota is gearing up for the 2012 Minnesota State Fair. In addition to seeing a variety of attractions, visitors can learn about the U's impact in their neighborhood, pick up a free voter education guide, and express their support for the University at the "Support the U" booth, located at the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Underwood Street, Minnesota State Fairgrounds, St. Paul, from Thursday, Aug. 24, through Monday, Sept. 3.
President Eric Kaler and his wife, Karen, will be at the fair Sunday, Sept. 2, and visit with state lawmakers at the Legislative Building.
Special session likely on August 24
It is anticipated that Governor Dayton will call a special session on August 24 to address the damage caused by summer storms and flooding in northern Minnesota. Legislators will consider state aid for fixing roads, economic development grants, and homeowner assistance. The University is not requesting any disaster relief for the Duluth campus.
Kaler highlights U mission and research in visit to Rochester
On July 19, President Kaler and Office of Government and Community Relations staff traveled to Rochester to increase U support at the legislature and among advocates by highlighting U research's contribution in the local community.
The visit began with a presentation from the Center for Transportation Studies (CTS) for five area legislators: Rep. Kim Norton, Rep. Mike Benson, Rep. Tina Liebling, Sen. Kathy Sheran, and Sen. Dave Senjem. Regent Rick Beeson attended as well. CTS director Laurie McGinnis spoke about the wide array of transportation activities that CTS supports, such as workshops for local road engineers on how to better maintain gravel roads, and complex research around mileage-based tax concepts for USDOT and MNDOT. McGinnis emphasized the center's role in bringing together stakeholders to address today's tough transportation challenges.
Next, Professor Max Donath from the Intelligent Transportation System Institute presented several traffic safety research projects in southern Minnesota. One promising project uses smartphones to track and improve youth driving behaviors through reminders and through text messages to parents on repeat problem behaviors. Professor Donath also highlighted how intelligent road sign design and GPS systems can aid snowplow drivers during whiteout conditions.
Afterwards, President Kaler spoke to the Rochester Rotary at a luncheon at the Rochester campus. Over 125 Rotarians, alumni, guests, and media attended. The speech focused on the critical role the University plays in Minnesota communities and the value of U research across the state. The president answered audience members' questions about technology transfer, the future of the Rochester campus, and tuition changes.
On the last leg of the visit, President Kaler spent an hour with the Rochester Post-Bulletin editorial board discussing unique partnerships between the Rochester campus and the corporate community. Tuition and declining state support for higher education were also discussed. President Kaler stressed that higher education is too important to the future of our state not to have strong support from the legislature. "They risk one of Minnesota's strategic advantages, a educated workforce, if they continue this disinvestment in higher education," he said.
U receives grant from DEED for expansion of Medical Devices Center
Yesterday, the University's College of Science and Engineering was awarded $1.08 million from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to build a larger facility for the Medical Devices Center in part of the Mayo Parking Garage in Minneapolis. Construction of the center is expected to begin this fall. "The Medical Devices Center is critical to the state's infrastructure, serving as an integral partner to industry and an incubator for innovative new devices," said DEED commissioner Mark Phillips.
Legislative Auditor praises the University’s preventive maintenance program for buildings
On Wednesday, the Legislative Audit Commission held a hearing to receive the legislative auditor’s report on the University’s preventive maintenance program for the Twin Cities campus. The report’s positive findings highlight the University’s use of best practices in preventive maintenance including a facility condition assessment for each building. In his report, the legislative auditor encourages the University to consider expanding its preventive maintenance program to include all buildings, even the revenue generating buildings that are not currently included in the program.
The auditor praised the University for the progress it has made in this area over the last twenty years. In his presentation, he explained that the University had a problem in this area many years ago that led to many media stories and a number of hearings at the legislature. He stated that he was pleased to report to the commission that the University now has a program for preventive maintenance that follows best practices and is less costly than peer institutions.
Sorensen presents before LCCMR
Also on Wednesday, Professor Peter Sorensen presented a proposal to the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) to fund the Aquatic Invasive Species Cooperative Research Center beyond the $3.8 million the legislature appropriated in the last legislative session. His proposal to the LCCMR requests $8.7 million for operating funds from 2013-2019. The proposal contains five components:
The LCCMR will be making its funding recommendations to the legislature over the next several months. These recommendations will then be introduced as a bill next session and be considered by legislature for funding.