A brief look at the Senate higher-education omnibus bill

Money but oversight

The state Senate has passed a higher-education bill that increases funding by $263 million.

The legislation would all but freeze tuition at the University of Minnesota over the next two years. And it would cap tuition at Minnesota state colleges and universities at 3 percent a year.

The bill would invest an additional $80 million into the State Grant program, giving it the largest increase since the program began. Senate higher-education Chairwoman Terri Bonoff told lawmakers it’s good, but still not enough.

“This is a very generous proposal,” she said, “but doesn’t even come close to meeting the need of our students.”

The bill also increases oversight. Bonoff told lawmakers the U would have to report to the legislature how it spends money on administration.

“We have several places within our overall omnibus bill pointed to our commitment that the University of Minnesota respond to the public’s perception that administrative costs are exceeding what we consider to be an acceptable standard,” she said.

The bill would withhold 5 percent of funding for the U and MnSCU college systems in 2015 until they met performance goals in areas such as graduation and enrollment.

And it would prohibit the use of state money to fund incentive bonuses in either MnSCU or the U.

In December, a Wall Street Journal article suggested the U had one of the largest percentages of administrators among U.S. universities.

The House bill is expected to vote on its version in a matter of days.