Higher ed commissioner reacts to House budget

Got this reaction from Dr. Sheila Wright in an e-mail from the Office of Higher Education:

“I am deeply appreciative of efforts among the House Majority to protect the State Grant Program, the State’s vital core necessary for maintaining access to higher education for students from low and middle-income backgrounds.

However, this is accomplished through deep cuts to the University of Minnesota and the MnSCU system, which, when aggregated with reductions from previous years, place both systems at critical levels of operational support in their responsiveness to students’ academic needs.

If there is ever a time to recognize the interrelatedness of our decisions and the essential role of higher education in driving the State’s economic engine, it is now. We simply must do both—protect the State Grant Program and the systems’ respective abilities to protect their academic core. This is particularly needed in order to position the State for the type of creativity and ingenuity required for our current and future economic growth.

In this regard, there are a number of mandates that, while well intended, will actually limit the systems’ ability to respond effectively to both students’ and the State’s overall workforce needs. Essentially, the combination of both cuts and mandates not only limits the number of students who will be able to enroll, it will also likely diminish course and program offerings.

In the budget proposal, the Office of Higher Education would also receive a double-digit cut. While OHE is one of the State’s smaller agencies in size, our staff is responsible for the seventh largest budget, primarily through administration of the State Grant Program to students.  Agency cuts this deep therefore have a very real potential of limiting our ability to provide critical administrative services that our students currently depend on.

Governor Dayton and I worked very hard to craft a bill that not only protects students from more tuition increases, but also safeguards the academic core of our institutions of higher education.  I remain optimistic these matters will be addressed and that the legislature’s final budget plan will more closely resemble our balanced approach.”