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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Connie Bernardy (DFL)

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Release: Minnesota House Advances Robust Higher Education Investments

Friday, April 29, 2022

St. Paul, Minn. Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved a package of $250 million in General Fund investments to improve student affordability, equity, well-being and safety, and campus sustainability.

“Our bill is centered on the voices of students,” said Rep. Bernardy, chair of the House Higher Education Committee. “No matter where students are born, or where they live in our state, this legislation will open doors for all Minnesotans, so they can earn a degree or the technical skills needed to succeed and thrive.” 

The "Land of 10,000 Opportunities" two-year free college proposal in this bill will put the promise of higher education, and an entry point to the middle class, within reach for every single child in a low and middle income family in Minnesota. Two-year free college will remove barriers for nearly 10,000 students from Minnesota families that make up to $75,000. Another 6,500 students from families with incomes from $75,000 to $125,000 per year will receive anywhere from 50-95% financial support. This will jumpstart recruitment for high demand careers that require a two-year degree like nurses, healthcare technicians, law enforcement officers, and many others. The bill also increases support for student parents, students studying social work, education, and addiction medicine. The State Grant formula is also adjusted to reduce the Assigned Student Responsibility. 

“Minnesota’s students deserve the education and job training they need to get jobs with wages and benefits that will support their families,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “House DFLers are working to reduce costs, invest in teachers or color, and jumpstart recruitment in high-demand fields.” 

For equity, this bill increases the 2021 investments that support teachers of color, underrepresented student teachers, and students who are also parents trying to finish degrees. The bill also makes historic changes for students with intellectual disabilities seeking access to higher education. The Inclusive Higher Education grants in the bill will open doors on college campuses to thousands of unserved or underserved students with intellectual disabilities. The bill also increases investments to support Native American students, and increases funding for Minnesota’s Tribal Colleges.

“Cost should never be a barrier to accessing higher education”, said Rep. Shelly Christensen (DFL- Stillwater), vice chair of the House Higher Education Committee. “Regardless of background, everyone deserves the opportunity to follow their dreams and thrive. That’s why the House DFL is making investments on the key issues that matter in education - lowering costs, providing mental health resources, and campus safety.”

House DFLers’ bill also ensures our Minnesota college students are learning in a safe environment by funding the U of M's campus safety request to create safer spaces on campuses through technology enhancement, lights, doors and protecting sensitive data from cyberattack. It also funds MinnState’s requests to increase mental health and student basic needs support to help provide students with the services they need to be healthy and productive on campus.

This bill makes significant investments in reducing higher ed’s climate impact by funding sustainability improvements at the U of M. It also funds higher ed research into groundbreaking natural resources technologies at the Natural Resources Research Institute in northern Minnesota and facilitates the creation of a 50-year clean water plan for Minnesota.

Under the House’s bill, $100 million will be allocated from the General Fund in 2023 and $150 million from the General Fund in 2024 and 2025. 

In contrast, the Senate Republican Majority is proposing spending $31 million in their higher education proposal.