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.
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.”