Friday, February 13, 2009

Budget town-hall hearings coming near you, Higher education budgets discussed, SMART alternative route to teaching, Saving students money

Taking the budget on the road
This week, the Minnesota House of Representatives launched a Web site for people to sign up to speak at one of the upcoming Town Hall Meetings to discuss the state’s budget. These meetings will be held throughout the state Feb. 19-26. House and Senate staff will make an effort to prioritize those that sign up ahead of time. The direct link for each Town Hall meeting with sign-up can be found at:

State lawmakers want to solicit the public’s ideas on how to move the state forward in this tough economic time. Below is a schedule of the upcoming town hall meetings. These meetings are a good opportunity for lawmakers to learn more about issues affecting the state, including higher education. Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said each meeting will begin with a fiscal presentation from nonpartisan staff, and she is anticipating a good turnout. House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said the meetings would be “bringing the Capitol to all of Minnesota.”

Thursday, Feb. 19
Thursday, Feb. 19 - 6 p.m.
Mankato Intergovernmental Center-Mankato River Room
10 Civic Center Plaza

Thursday, Feb. 19 - 6 p.m.
Rochester Community and Technical College-Heintz Center Commons Area
1926 Collegeview Road SE

St. Cloud
Thursday, Feb. 19 - 6 p.m.
St. Cloud City Hall-Council Chambers
400-2nd Street South

Thursday, Feb. 19 - 6 p.m.
Kennedy Elementary School
824-7th Street SW

Friday, Feb. 20
Friday, Feb. 20 - 9:30 a.m.
Duluth City Hall-Council Chambers
411 W 1st Street

Little Falls
Friday, Feb. 20 - 9:30 a.m.
Morrison County Government Center-Garden Level Meeting Room
213-1st Avenue SE

Albert Lea
Friday, Feb. 20 - 10:00 a.m.
Albert Lea City Hall-Council Chambers
221 E Clark Street

Friday, Feb. 20 - 10:30 a.m.
Washington Educational Services Building-Board Room
804 Oak Street

Friday, Feb. 20 - 10:30 a.m.
Worthington City Hall-Council Chambers
303 Ninth Street

Friday, Feb. 20 - 1:30 p.m.
Mesabi Range Community and Technical College-Small Auditorium
1001 Chestnut Street W

Friday, Feb. 20 - 2:30 p.m.
Southwest Minnesota State University Lecture Hall
1501 State Street

Friday, Feb. 20 - 3:30 p.m.
Bemidji State University-American Indian Resource Center Gathering Place
1620 Birchmont Drive

Friday, Feb. 20 - 3:30 p.m.
Winona City Hall-Council Chambers
207 Lafayette

Note: Time Change
Friday, Feb. 20 - 4:00 p.m.
Alexandria City Hall
704 Broadway

Metro Town Hall Meetings

Monday, Feb. 23 - 6:00 p.m.
Central Park Ampitheater
8595 Central Park Place

Tuesday, Feb. 24 - 6:00 p.m.
Minneapolis Park Board
2117 West River Road

Tuesday, Feb. 24 - 7:00 p.m.
Bloomington City Hall
1800 W Old Shakopee Rd.

White Bear Lake
Wednesday, Feb. 25 - 6:30 p.m.
White Bear Lake High School-South Campus
3551 McKnight Rd N

Wednesday, Feb. 25 - 7:30 p.m.
Fairview Ridges Hospital
201 E Nicollet Blvd

St. Paul
Thursday, Feb. 26 - 6:00 p.m.
West Minnehaha Recreation Center in Frogtown
685 Minnehaha Ave W

Forest Lake
Thursday, Feb. 26 - 6:30 p.m.
Forest Lake City Hall
220 N. Lake St

Coon Rapids
Thursday, Feb. 26 - 7 p.m.
Coon Rapids City Hall
11155 Robinson Drive

Thursday, Feb. 26 - 7 p.m.
Plymouth City Hall
3400 Plymouth Blvd

Lawmakers dig deeper into higher education budgets
In an attempt to learn more about the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system budget, members of the Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division heard from system representatives about budget details. Manuel Lopez, associate vice chancellor for academic program quality, responded to questions about the system's centers of excellence, services for underserved populations, the Power of You program and competitive salaries. Another topic of discussion included the five performance funding goals the system met from 2007 session law, including increasing the number of students taking science, technology, engineering and math courses; increasing enrollment at the four Centers of Excellence; increasing the number of students trained on the use of electronic medical record technology; increasing the number of students taking online courses; and expanding the use of “awards of excellence” or other initiatives that reward faculty or staff for innovations designed to advance excellence and efficiency.

Lopez also described the results of ongoing funding for community energy projects at Inver Hills Community College, Mesabi Range Community and Technical College, Minnesota West Community and Technical College and Riverland Community College. Also of interest to the committee was the funding received for economic development and e-Folio upgrade as well as the Northeast Higher Education District vocational education and the Range higher education needs study. In addition, members discussed the textbook pilot program. The system received $500,000 to start pilot projects at institutions to help reduce costs associated with textbooks. And finally, Lopez described the progress made on the degree requirement language from the 2007 session that capped credits for two-year programs at 60 credits and four-year programs at 120 credits. Lopez told members that the policy is new so there have been no formal waiver applications to the credit cap as of yet.

Joanne Chabot, deputy chief information officer for administrative systems, told committee members about the funding allocated for technology and said the major emphasis in fiscal year 2008 was procuring technology to replace obsolete and inadequate parts of the shared environment. As a direct result, Chabot said, the start of the fall semester this year was smooth for the first time in many years.

The University of Minnesota is scheduled to respond to detailed budget questions on Tuesday, Feb. 17 and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system will return to respond to remaining budget questions.

Private colleges weigh in on budget deficit
The House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division heard from private colleges this week that public universities are not the only schools that have been hit hard by the economy.

Macalester College President Brian Rosenberg told members that the college’s endowment funds have shrunk and its fundraising environment is bad because of the economic recession. Rosenberg said roughly 70 percent of Macalester students receive some level of need-based financial aid, at least a portion of which is provided by the state of Minnesota. He said many capital projects are being slowed or halted, and most Macalester employees are likely to experience a wage freeze.

College of St. Catherine President Sr. Andrea Lee said students at her college often depend on state grants for access to higher education. Contrary to popular myth, she said, most students at private colleges do not come from wealthy families. Lee urged lawmakers not to cut funding for higher education as they look for solutions to the state’s budget deficit.

Governor's SMART proposal heard in the House
The House K-12 Policy and Oversight Committee heard about a proposal this week by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to recruit mid-career professionals to teach in K-12 classrooms. The governor’s proposal, known as SMART, “State of Minnesota Alternative Route to Teaching,” would begin a one-year teacher training program with the goal of recruiting mid-career professionals to teach math, science and other disciplines in which there are currently shortages of qualified K-12 teachers.

John Melick, director of education licensing for the Department of Education, presented the governor’s proposal to committee members. Under the SMART program, Melick said qualified individuals would attend a summer training program and then be provisionally employed as teachers while receiving additional training at night and on the weekends. They would then attend another summer program at the end of the school year, after which they would be eligible to receive their teaching license. The governor has recommended $500,000 to fund the program.

Lawmakers learn more about the Department of Employment and Economic Development
The Senate Economic Development and Housing Budget Division heard from Commissioner Dan McElroy, Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) this week about the department’s budget. McElroy said DEED's goals center on creating and retaining jobs, cultivating entrepreneurs, enhancing community vitality, strengthening the workforce, fostering self-sufficiency and addressing economic change. He said DEED has three operational divisions - unemployment insurance, workforce development and business and community development.

McElroy said the unemployment insurance program area provides an economic stabilizer in times of economic downturn. He said that in 2008, about 214,000 Minnesotans were paid just over $1 billion in unemployment insurance benefits. Under current economic conditions, the fund will remain solvent through the first quarter of 2010. In the area of workforce development, the Minnesota job skills partnership program trained more than 13,000 workers and leveraged nearly $24 million in 2007, McElroy said. Youth programs provided services and training for approximately 10,000 of the state's neediest youth per year, he said with a return of $3.65 for every dollar invested. Other programs include vocational rehabilitation, services for the blind, independent living, extended employment and disability determination, McElroy said. And in the area of business and community development, McElroy said, the department made more than 700 direct contacts with companies to encourage growth and expansion, which resulted in 37 expansions with 1,800 new jobs. He said that in the entrepreneurship and small business development program area the agency helped create more than 6,000 jobs through direct services.

Senators learn of options to save students cost
The Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division focused on ways to help students reduce expenses this week. Discussion focused on post-secondary enrollment options (PSEO), which allows high school students to earn college credits, and higher education's efforts to help students graduate in four years.

Cyndy Crist, system director for P-16 collaboration, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, outlined the history of the PSEO program, which was established in 1985 as the nation’s first statewide dual-credit program. The program provides both high school and college credit, Crist said. She said the program provides tuition-free college-level learning opportunities for high school juniors and seniors. Crist said the colleges and universities determine the admissions standards, the space available and require completion of a placement test before enrolling.

Crist told committee members that PSEO initially was limited to high school students taking courses on college or university campuses, but later changed to include concurrent enrollment courses which is defined as a college or university course taught in the high school by a high school teacher with a college or university faculty partner/mentor to provide guidance and quality assurance.

Crist said all 32 institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system enroll students in some form of PSEO. She said participation rates vary by location, but that most students are in greater Minnesota. She said 21,655 students participate in courses such as English, mathematics, social science and physical science.

Members also heard about the Discovery Academy, a partnership between St. Cloud Technical College and seven high schools including Sartell High School. Sandra Fabian, associate dean of academic and innovative partnerships at St. Cloud Technical College, told members that the Discovery Academy has 23 courses available to PSEO students at the seven high schools. Fabian told members the program gives students an opportunity to explore career opportunities and empowers students to achieve at the college level and make informed decisions about their next steps. Brenda Steve, principal at Sartell High School explained the program’s benefits. Steve said that the mentoring between college faculty and high school teachers is invaluable and improves the quality of teaching.

Also testifying about a Minnesota State Colleges and Universities PSEO initiative was Jill Abbott, associate dean of academic and student services at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Abbott explained the Online College in the High School program, which offers courses to public high school students in a distance learning format. The program allows students to remain in their high school building while they access online, college-level courses. The four participating colleges and universities are: Alexandria Technical College, Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Northland Community and Technical College and the University of Minnesota. Inger Wegener, career and technical education specialist with Lakes Country Service Cooperative, told committee members the program provids opportunities to students that previously did not exist because of location.

Another way to reduce college expenses for students that was discussed by the committee is the ongoing effort to help students graduate in four years. Sally Johnstone, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Winona State University, told members about a four-year graduation guarantee that began at the university in 1984. If students follow the framework laid out by the university, they will graduate in four years or the university will pick up the cost. This means that students must be highly motivated and cannot change majors midway through college. Committee members discussed why students separate from the four-year track, and Johnstone said the main reason is 60 to 70 percent of students change their major. Johnstone said students also work more so it takes longer to get through school.

Student regional rally days a success
Regional events, hosted by college and university student governments, the Minnesota State University Student Association, and the Minnesota State College Student Association, were held on state university campuses during the past week and will continue next week. The events were successful in both obtaining media coverage and building relationships with community members about the importance of public higher education.

In addition, many students attended the events, which gave them the opportunity to ask questions about how budget cuts could impact them and the campuses they attend. There was good turnout at all the events, including Southwest Minnesota State University and Minnesota State University, Mankato, where more than 100 students attended. At Minnesota State University Moorhead, students played a higher education version of "The Price is Right."

Coming up next week is the student associations’ Student Advocacy Day Wednesday, Feb. 18. Students will hold a press conference at 12:30 p.m. followed by a rally in the Capitol rotunda, encouraging the Legislature to support public higher education and push for a positive future in Minnesota. Students will also visit their legislators that day.

Economic stimulus package passes the House
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $787 billion economic stimulus bill today by a 246-183 vote. Final Senate approval is expected later this evening or Saturday, where the bill will need at least three Republicans voting in favor to pass. In the House, no Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Seven Democrats voted against it (11 Democrats and all Republicans voted against the first bill). The plan is expected to assist Minnesota by saving or creating approximately 66,000 jobs. Highlights of the bill include:

• An increase of $500 to the maximum Pell Grant award over two years. The maximum award in 2009 will be $5,350, increasing to $5,550 in 2010, for an estimated 103,214 Minnesota students.

• A total of $53.6 billion is provided for a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. Of this amount $48.3 billion will be available to states for two purposes: 1) $40 billion will be available to restore state funding deficiencies for the fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011 to the greater of either fiscal year 2008 or 2009 funding levels in the elementary and secondary education funding formula grants AND to the accounts that fund institutions of higher education. Those receiving funds through this account may use the funds for education and general expenditures in such a manner as to mitigate a rise in tuition and fees for in-state students or for building modernization efforts; and 2) the remaining $8 billion will be used by governors to support public safety and other government services that may include funds to elementary and secondary education, as well as institutions of higher education, and for modernization, renovation, or repair of buildings in these systems, including projects at higher education institutions with a recognized green rating system. The remaining $5 billion is available to governors for a State Incentive Grant that includes funding for state longitudinal system data collection.

  • A total of $250 million is provided for statewide data systems to include postsecondary and workforce information. Some of these funds will be used to support efforts focused on improved data coordination.
  • The measure provides an additional $200 million for the Federal Work Study program.
  • An additional $100 million is provided for the Teacher Quality Enhancement Program.
  • Higher education tax credits are increased to $2,500 (from the current level of $1,800) and allows that 40 percent of that credit be refundable for those low-income students who end up having no tax liability. Approximately 41,000 Minnesota students are expected to benefit from the tax credits.

Congressman Tim Walz, D-Minn, said about the bill, “I’m pleased to see that the funding I fought for was restored in the final version of the recovery package.” “This bill isn’t perfect, but the 3.5 million Americans whose livelihood relies on the jobs this bill will create and save certainly don’t want to see us let the perfect get in the way of the good. We're committed to turning this recession around and the recovery package is the first step.”

Congressman John Kline, R-Minn, who voted against the bill said, “A trillion-dollar borrow-and-spend bill will not bring us back to prosperity. This bill creates at least 32 new federal programs at a cost of more than $136 billion. Rather than jumpstarting the economy, this bill saddles our children and grandchildren with more debt and bigger government.”

New report shows higher education funding declining
Just after higher education institutions were beginning to recover from the 2002-2005 cuts, they are now hit with recessions, according to a new report. “Despite progress over the past three years, per student state and local support for public higher education has only recovered about half of the funding lost during the sharp downturn from 2002 to 2005,” noted Paul Lingenfelter, president of State Higher Education Executive Officers, or SHEEO. “All the signs in the current recession point toward further decline, renewing and accelerating the long term trend for public higher education to become more expensive for students and their families,” Lingefelter said.

The new report highlighting these trends can be found here. The report highlights trends during the past 20 years on higher education appropriations, net tuition revenue, total education revenue and full-time equivalent enrollments. It also highlights that as the nation goes into recession, higher education is the key to economic recovery.

Reggie Robinson, chair of SHEEO’s Executive Committee and President and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents, said, “Sustained enrollment growth from 7.4 million to 10.4 million full-time equivalent students over the past 20 years underscores the growing importance of public higher education to the American people and our economy. Even higher rates of participation and better rates of student success are needed to help Americans compete in a knowledge economy. Our colleges and universities are stepping up to this challenge, but in the long run their success will depend both on their dedication and on the capacity and willingness of the states to stabilize and sustain financial support.”

Here's What's Happening at the Capitol:

This schedule shows all meetings that we are aware of at the time of publication that MAY have an impact on the system. This schedule may change. Please watch the House and Senate schedules posted on the Legislature web site.

Monday, February 16
11 a.m.
Senate in Session

12:30 p.m.
Senate Buiness, Industry and Jobs
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. James P. Metzen
Agenda: Federal stimulus package discussion

1:00 p.m.
House in Session

Tuesday, February 17
8:30 a.m.
House K-12 Education Policy Committee
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Carlos Mariani
Agenda: Business community perspectives on education
Steve Waters, Vice President of Sales, Marathon Multimedia
Laura Eckholm, Senior Vice President, L & M Radiator
Chip Emery, retired CEO, MTS
Dick Pentingill, CEP Allina

10:30 a.m.
House Bioscience and Workforce Development Policy and Oversight Division
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Tim Mahoney
Agenda: Presentation from Southern Minnesota Regional Competitiveness Partnership

11:15 a.m.
Senate Capital Investment
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Keith Langseth
Agenda: Discussion of Asset Preservation needs for potential 2009 Bonding bill.

1 p.m.
Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Sandra L. Pappas
Agenda: University of Minnesota Oversight Review

1 p.m.
House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Representative Tom Rukavina
Agenda: Detailed look at DOLI's revenues and expenditures

Wednesday, February 18
8:30 a.m.
Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: 112 Capitol
Chair: Sen. LeRoy A. Stumpf
Agenda: MDE: Education portion of the federal stimulus

10:30 a.m.
House Bioscience and Workforce Development Policy and Oversight Division
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Tim Mahoney
Agenda: Green Jobs Task Force Report
HF680 (Kalin) Federal stimulus funding allocated for energy programs.

12:30 p.m.
Senate Committee on Business, Industry and Jobs
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. James P. Metzen
Agenda: Green Jobs Task Force Report and Action Plan

2:45 p.m.
House K-12 Education Finance Division
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Mindy Greiling
Agenda: Education provisions of federal stimulus bill

Thursday, February 19
8:30 p.m.
Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: 112 Capitol
Chair: Sen. LeRoy A. Stumpf
Agenda: Growth & Justice: Smart Investments in Minnesota's students

6:00 p.m.
Meeting Time Note: Each meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
House and Senate Budget Listening Sessions
Room: Locations listed below
Mankato Intergovernmental Center - Mankato River Room, 10 Civic Center Plaza
Rochester Community and Technical College - Heintz Center Commons Area, 1926 Collegeview Rd. S.E.
St. Cloud City Hall - Council Chambers, 400 Second St. S.
Willmar - Kennedy Elementary School, 824 Seventh St. S.W.

Friday, February 20
12:30 p.m.
Senate Committee on Taxes
Room: Comstock Memorial Union, Moorhead State University
Chair: Sen. Thomas M. Bakk
Agenda: Governor's biennial budget recommendations

No Time Available check time note
House and Senate Budget Listening Sessions
Room: Locations and times listed below
9:30 a.m.
Duluth City Hall - Council Chambers, 411 W. First St.

9:30 a.m.
Little Falls; Morrison County Government Center - Garden Level Meeting Room, 213 First Ave. S.E.

10 a.m.
Albert Lea City Hall - Council Chambers, 221 E. Clark St.

10:30 a.m.
Brainerd; Washington Educational Services Building - Board Room, 804 Oak St.
Worthington City Hall - Council Chambers, 303 Ninth St.

12:30 p.m.
Minnesota State University Moorhead - Comstock Union, 1104 Seventh Ave. S.

1:30 p.m.
Virginia; Mesabi Range Community and Technical College - Small Auditorium, 1001 Chestnut St. W.

2:30 p.m.
Marshall; Southwest Minnesota State University - Lecture Hall, 1501 State St.

3:30 p.m.
Bemidji State University - American Indian Resource Center Gathering Place, 1620 Birchmont Dr.

3:30 p.m.
Winona City Hall - Council Chambers, 207 Lafayette

4 p.m.
Alexandria City Hall, 704 Broadway

Monday, February 23
3 p.m.
Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight - Subcommittee on
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Katie Sieben
S.F. 661-Pappas: Postsecondary institutions resident student information report to secretary of state for voter registration purposes expansion; voter registration enhanced access to voter registration records and records of returned absentee ballots on the world wide.

S.F. 660-Marty: Automatic voter registration for driver’s license applicants; secretary of state additional data requirement from public officials for voter registration system maintenance.

S.F. 157-Rest: Presidential primary establishment; campaign finance and public disclosure public official definition expansion; soil and water conservation district supervisors election provisions modifications; primary election voter eligibility requirements.

S.F. 278-Rest: United States senate or representative in congress and state legislature vacancy election procedures modifications.

Tuesday, February 24
10:30 a.m.
House Bioscience and Workforce Development Policy and Oversight Division
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Tim Mahoney
Agenda: Update from the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics

Thursday, February 26
12:30 p.m.
Joint Senate and House Higher Education Committees
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Sen. Sandra L. Pappas
Agenda: U of M Regent selection

Tuesday, March 3
12:30 p.m.
Joint Senate and House Higher Education Committees
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Sen. Sandra L. Pappas
Agenda: U of M Regent selection

Wednesday, March 4
February Economic Forecast Released

Thursday, March 5
8:30 a.m.
Senate Committee on Finance
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Richard J. Cohen
Agenda: February Forecast Briefing:
State Economist Tom Stinson
Commissioner Tom Hanson, Minnesota Management and Budget