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Barbara McDonald

Not too long ago we celebrated NHCC’s graduating class of 2019.

More congratulations and appreciation are in order for our elected representatives who reached an agreement on the state’s 2020-2021 biennium budget. After a 14-hour negotiation session led by Higher Education Conference Co-Chairs Rep. Connie Bernardy and Sen. Paul Anderson, and Higher Education Commissioner Dennis Olson, the committee passed a bill, Chapter 64, that includes $81.5 million in new funding for the 37 colleges and universities that make up Minnesota State. Let me highlight where these funds will be allocated.

Approximately 80% of the budget, $64.5 million, will be directed to each campus for general operating support. The Next Gen technology infrastructure project that will replace the 20-year old data system will receive $8 million. One million dollars in one-time funds will support workforce partnerships, including to develop new and accelerate existing employer-led workforce exposure programs in high-growth, high-demand industries.

Workforce development scholarships, an outcome of the 2017 legislative session, will receive another $7 million to fund scholarships that incentivizes students to enter high-demand occupations upon graduation. Changes to program eligibility will also allow more students access and opportunity to these funds.

One-time funding of $500,000 will support funding for textbook affordability, specifically for developing and offering courses to implement the Z-Degree (zero-textbook-cost degree). The leveraged equipment acquisition program will receive an additional $500,000 in funds to support the acquisition of state-of-the-art instructional equipment for credit-based academic programs that produce graduates in areas of high-demand occupations. An equipment acquisition may be made using the appropriation only if matched by cash or in-kind contributions from non-state sources. Another $250,000 will support mental health services on campuses and via telemedicine.

Finally, the bill caps tuition at 3% each year of the biennium, keeping college affordable and accessible. Under the provision, tuition rates cannot exceed the prior academic year rate by more than 3% at both the colleges and universities. Differential tuition charges are permitted in both years of the biennium where costs for course or program delivery have increased due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the college or university.

This month, the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities will review Minnesota State’s 2020 capital budget request totaling $251 million that would fund Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement projects, in addition to 15 newly proposed college and university projects, including the Center for Innovation & the Arts (CITA) @ Brooklyn Park sponsored by North Hennepin Community College, Metropolitan State University and the city of Brooklyn Park. The $6.5 million funding request would support the design phase.

CITA would expand arts programming at the associate and bachelor degree level, advance cultural engagement, community education and youth programming for residents and neighboring communities, and expand opportunities for ISD 279 Osseo Area Schools for science, technology, engineering, arts and math education and career pathways.

We are grateful for the state’s continued support of the colleges and universities of Minnesota State that will allow us to continue to train and prepare the state’s workforce and community leaders of tomorrow!

Barbara McDonald is president of North Hennepin Community College.

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