Gov. Tim Walz is often seen wearing a University of Minnesota cap when he’s out and about, but his proposed higher education budget would give a bit more to the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities.
Well, “a bit” is a relative term, for his administration’s proposed outlay for Minnesota State is $877 million in fiscal year 2024 and $877.2 million in fiscal year 2025, while its suggested University of Minnesota appropriation is $752.4 million for each of those years. And the Office of Higher Education, which administers the state’s financial aid programs, would get $343.6 million in fiscal year 2024 and $334.4 million in fiscal year 2025.
Those are the big numbers in HF2073, which, as amended, would provide $3.94 billion in funding for higher education during the next biennium, a 12.3% increase over base. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Gene Pelowski, Jr. (DFL-Winona).
He chairs the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee, which laid the bill over on Tuesday.
[MORE: View a spreadsheet of the governor’s proposal]
Among the governor’s proposed higher education appropriations, here are what you might call the "Sweet 16” of big-ticket items for fiscal year 2024:
The bill would establish a direct admissions program to automatically offer conditional admission into Minnesota public colleges and universities to Minnesota high school seniors. It also calls for a new American Indian Scholars grant program, a student-parent support initiative for expectant and parenting college students, and a tribal college supplemental grant assistance program.
Both Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) and Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) questioned whether the increased appropriations were appropriate while enrollments in the Minnesota State and University of Minnesota systems are declining. Rep. Joe McDonald (R-Delano) suggested that “the appropriation is a wee bit too much,” and asked if it was doing enough for trade school programs.
Higher Education Commissioner Dennis Olson replied that the increase was necessary.
“We’re digging out of a deep disinvestment hole,” he said, adding that funding for two-year associate degree programs is “all over the bill.”