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A Positive 2006 Legislative Session for Minnesota Higher Education




Sandy Connolly
Minnesota Office of Higher Education
(651) 259-3902

New Science Buildings, University Expansion in Rochester and Student Loan Changes Enhance Competitiveness, Access

The results are in and the 2006 legislative session produced many important investments in higher education. In addition to the high-profile bill to construct an on-campus stadium on the University of Minnesota campus, the Legislature and Governor Tim Pawlenty delivered on many less visible higher education initiatives that will help college students succeed and improve the state's overall higher education competitiveness.

Governor Tim Pawlenty recently signed a $999 million capital investment bill that included $307 million in new facilities and construction updates at publicly-funded campuses across the state. The package of projects on college and university campuses is dominated by new science buildings, labs and upgrades for technology that will give students the opportunity to learn in contemporary environments and enable Minnesota's public colleges and universities to stay competitive.

Legislators and Governor Pawlenty also authorized funding to enhance the role of the University of Minnesota in Rochester. This provision will allow for the development of specialized educational programs and research in emerging science and technology fields. The expanded University of Minnesota campus, which will be located in downtown Rochester adjacent to the Mayo Clinic, will build upon partnerships with Mayo, IBM and other businesses to offer unique upper-division and graduate programs.

Following is a summary of higher education provisions passed in 2006:

  • The University of Minnesota will receive $116 million for building and construction (Chapter 5809):
    • $40 million for a new medical biosciences building on the Twin Cities campus
    • $26.6 million for new facilities for the Carlson School of Management
    • $15.3 million for a new building for the Labovitz School of Business and Economics on the Duluth campus
    • $30 million for general asset preservation, repair and replacement on the four University of Minnesota campuses
    • $4 million in other projects

  • The University of Minnesota received approval to construct a new Gopher football stadium on the Twin Cities campus of the University. The state will make 25 annual payments of $10.3 million beginning in 2008 to help cover the debt service on the $248 million stadium. The remainder will be financed through the sale of naming rights and student fees. Construction is expected to be complete in 2009. (Laws of Minnesota, Chapter 247)
  • The Mayo-Clinic/University of Minnesota genomics research partnership, which received state funding for the first time two years ago, will receive $15 million. A new $8 million bioscience development center in downtown Rochester was also funded. Both are part of a state biosciences and economic development research initiative. (Chapter 282, Article 11, Sec. 2, Subd.5)
  • The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities will receive $191 million in the capital bonding bill for building and construction on campuses across the state (Chapter 5809):
    • $32.9 million for a new science addition to Trafton Hall at Minnesota State University, Mankato
    • $11.2 million for renovation of Winona State University's Maxwell Hall
    • $14 million for a new addition to the Wick science building at St. Cloud State University
    • $19.9 million for a new science and library building at Century College in White Bear Lake
    • $18.9 million to renovate a nursing and allied health training center and create a science lab at Minneapolis Community and Technical College
    • $12.4 million to build a physical education and cultural center at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet
    • $40 million for general asset preservation, repair and replacement at campuses across the state
    • $42.1 million in other projects and design work.

  • The capital bonding bill included $11 million to construct a regional events center on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall, which will be home to the Southwest Minnesota State football team. The Schwan Food Company, headquartered in Marshall, has pledged to help raise the additional $7 million for the project.
  • Lawmakers approved $5 million in new annual operating funds for the University of Minnesota to expand its presence in Rochester and develop unique upper division and graduate-level programs in bioscience, health science and technology that are not offered elsewhere in the state. The long range plan for the expanded presence in Rochester includes construction of a downtown campus that will serve approximately 1,400 students by 2015. The expanded campus will collaborate with the Mayo Clinic, IBM and other regional businesses on research, education and training. The expanded University of Minnesota in Rochester was proposed by a committee appointed by Governor Pawlenty in 2005. (Chapter 282, Article 8, Sections 2, 8, 9, and 10)
  • The annual loan limits for college students participating in the state's self-supporting student loan program administered by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education will be increased beginning July 1. Loan maximums for the SELF Loan Program were increased from $4,500 per year for the first two undergraduate years to $6,000, and from $6,000 per year to $7,500 for students in years three, four and five of their undergraduate education. Beginning July 1, 2007, the loan maximums will be $7,500 per year for years one through five. Loan maximums for the program have not been increased for 10 years. In addition, the repayment terms were modified slightly. (Chapter 282, Article 8, Sec. 5 and 6)
  • The growing SELF Loan Program was granted additional tax exempt bonding authority of up to $80 million. The availability of tax exempt bonds for student loans will help offset interest rates for student borrowers in the program. (Chapter 259, Article 9, Sections 10, 13, and 15)
  • As part of a package of assistance for U.S. military veterans, several provisions were passed relating to higher education. (Chapter 282, Article 15, Sec. 2, Subd. 5 and Laws of Minnesota, Chapter 273, Sec. 9)
    • Publicly-funded colleges and universities are required to charge all veterans their resident tuition rate.
    • Publicly-funded institutions are required to allow veterans a grace period for paying their tuition if their military benefit disbursements are delayed.
    • The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are required to consistently recognize military training and education for credit as recognized by the American Council on Education, a national accrediting organization.
    • The Department of Veterans Affairs will hire additional staff to circulate among colleges and universities to provide support and assistance to student veterans.

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