Thursday, October 14, 2010

Special session scheduled

Gov. Pawlenty has scheduled a special session for Monday, Oct. 18 at 1:00 p.m. to address flood relief in southern Minnesota. Pawlenty had earlier called a special session for this week; however, it was rescheduled to allow for a federal disaster to be declared, which President Obama did yesterday for 21 affected counties. Lawmakers will vote on a bill that includes approximately $74 million in flood relief.

The special session will also include help for areas damaged by tornadoes earlier this summer. $5.2 million is slated for 13 storm-damaged counties. It also includes $750,000 to update Wadena’s existing pre-design and design plans for public facilities and $693,000 for school districts that incurred uninsured losses to buildings and equipment. Students in grades 9 - 12 from the local Wadena high school have been taking classes at the Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Wadena since the start of school this fall, and are expected to attend classes there for the next two years.

The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Monday, Oct. 18 at 8:00 a.m. in room 123 of the State Capitol to review the 2010 Disaster and Emergency Assistance legislation prior to the special session convening at 1:00 p.m. Following the Finance Committee, the Capital Investment committee will meet to review the bill at 9:30, also in room 123 of the Capitol. The Senate Taxes Committee is scheduled to review the legislation at 10:30 in room 15 of the Capitol.

The House Finance Committee is scheduled to meet the morning of Oct. 18 at 9:00 a.m. in room 200 of the State Office Building.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Three gubernatorial candidates explain views on higher education

Videotaped interviews of candidates are available online

The three major gubernatorial candidates offered their views about tuition, budget priorities, jobs for graduates, online learning and other higher education issues in videotaped interviews with Scott Thiss, chair of the Board of Trustees and a student leader, Caitlin Stene.

Their responses are available online here.

“We are pleased that the three candidates answered questions that are important to our students and system,” Thiss said. “The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system is critical to helping the state ensure that it has a well-educated and competitive workforce and that it has active and engaged citizens.”

The candidates - Democrat Mark Dayton, Republican Tom Emmer and Independent Tom Horner - answered questions from Stene, who represented the Minnesota State University Student Association and the Minnesota State College Student Association, and Thiss.

The interviews were sponsored by the Board of Trustees in partnership with the two student associations. The three candidates were asked the same questions in individual sessions.

Travis Johnson, president of the state college student group, said: “We have been working hard to get our students registered and mobilized, and these videos go a long way to help voters make an informed decision about this very important issue. Quality, affordable and accessible higher education is not a luxury in today's economy. It is an indispensable part of creating jobs, providing security for working families and getting the economy back on track.”

Caitlin Stene, vice chair of the state university student association, said: "I believe it is important our members hear about the issues that matter to them from the gubernatorial candidates. This might be the only avenue to hear directly from these individuals about rising tuition costs, state funding for higher education, online courses, and other topics that directly affect our state university students. This effort fits into our goal of getting out the student vote this election."

Besides being posted online here, the videos will be shown at various campus events this fall.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system comprises 32 state universities and community and technical colleges serving the higher education needs of Minnesota. The system also serves about 277,000 students per year in credit-based courses and an additional 157,000 students in non-credit courses.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Congress passes funding bill; White House holds community college summit; Dream bill fails; State election update

Congress Passes Funding Measure

With the start of a new fiscal year today, Oct. 1, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed a funding measure earlier this week to keep federal government programs operating at current fiscal year 2010 funding levels. The approved continuing resolution is in effect until Dec. 3, 2010.

Congress is expected to come back into session after the November elections. Members are scheduled to return for a week, the week of Nov. 15, and then return the week of Nov. 29 to finish business. When Congress returns, they will address a funding measure that will provide funding for all or part of fiscal year 2011.

There are 12 appropriations bills Congress needs to act on, including the bill that addresses higher education, the Labor-HHS-Education bill. In the Senate, that bill was approved by the full Appropriations committee late July. In the House, the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations subcommittee approved a draft bill mid-July. The main difference between the two bills is largely attributable to Pell Grant funding. The House includes $5.7 billion toward the Pell Grant shortfall, while the Senate does not include any funding.

Community College Summit to meet next week

The White House is hosting a summit next week to discuss how community colleges can ensure that the U.S. has the best educated workforce in the world in order for businesses in the United States to compete in the global economy. Summit participants will also address President Obama’s goal to lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.

The opening and closing session of the White House Summit on Community Colleges will be streamed live Tuesday, Oct. 5. The opening session begins at 12:15 p.m. EDT and the closing session begins at 3:00 p.m. EDT. You can find a link here.

Summit participants include; Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden and a community college English professor, who will lead the summit; U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan; U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis; Admiral Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; William Green, chair and CEO of Accenture; Eduardo PadrĂ³n, president of Miami Dade College in Florida; Jim Jacobs, president of Macomb Community College in Michigan; Ted Carey, president of the American Student Association of Community Colleges; Albert Ojeda, graduate of Estrella Mountain Community College in Arizona; and an honors student at Arizona State University.

The White House has been accepting questions and topics for discussion here.

AASCU Policy Brief now available - Boosting Financial Literacy in America: A Role for State Colleges and Universities

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities, or AASCU, has released the latest installment from its Perspectives series entitled; Boosting Financial Literacy in America: A Role for State Colleges and Universities. The papers released by AASCU take a more in-depth look at current higher education issues. This most recent paper can be found here.

State colleges and universities have an opportunity to provide financial education programs and services that can elevate financial literacy. This paper discusses the implications financial literacy has on the collective economic and societal interests and sets forth arguments for why state colleges and universities are well-positioned to meet this challenge.

DREAM Act bill falls flat

Last week, U.S. Senate Democrats attempted to offer the DREAM Act bill as an amendment to the Defense Department bill. Democrats, who hold the majority in the Senate, only needed one Republican vote in order to get the 60 votes necessary to take up the Defense bill without threat of a filibuster. They did not get the 60 votes needed and instead the Senate proceeded to the debate on the full bill.

The DREAM Act would create a path to citizenship for undocumented students and make them eligible for some federal student aid. Supporters see the DREAM Act as the solution to many barriers facing illegal immigrants who want to enroll in college and go on to well-paying jobs and productive lives in the United States. Those who oppose the measure, say it would reward illegal behavior and encourage more immigration.

Supporters of the DREAM Act say this is only a setback and have vowed to find another legislative vehicle for the bill.

Gubernatorial candidates discuss higher education

The three major candidates running for governor in Minnesota: Independent candidate Tom Horner, Republican candidate Tom Emmer, and DFL candidate Mark Dayton, visited the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Office of the Chancellor last week for a brief interview with Board of Trustees Chair Scott Thiss and Winona State University Student Caitlin Stene.

The candidates for governor forum was sponsored by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees, the Minnesota State College Student Association and the Minnesota State University Student Association. The taped interviews, which include each candidates thoughts on higher education, and specifically the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, will be available soon for viewing. We will notify you when the link is available.

As a reminder, election Day is Nov. 2, 2010. Offices up for election this year are state senators and representatives, state executive officers including the governor, and U.S. representatives. You may tune in to election activity and campus events on the government relations Web site.