Gov. proposes new funding plan

Brady Averill

In his State of the State Address on Tuesday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty called for a change in the way public higher education is funded.

Pawlenty, speaking in Rochester, Minn., said he will not sign the bonding bill, which funds University construction projects, unless it includes a genomics lab for the University and Mayo Clinic partnership. He also recommended building a university in Rochester.

“We need to embrace change, we need to be bold and, most importantly, we need to get moving,” he said.

Pawlenty also said he will announce his state budget next week.

Money for students

Pawlenty said he wants Minnesota to fund higher education in a manner similar to Colorado. He outlined a plan in which colleges and universities would receive funding based on core areas such as research and student enrollment.

Pawlenty said he was “intrigued” that Colorado gives two-thirds of its higher education budget directly to students.

“Under this approach, colleges will need to be more accountable to their customers, more responsive to the marketplace and more accountable for results to succeed,” he said.

He said he has asked Susan Heegaard, director of the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office, to have a plan ready for the 2006 legislative session and the 2008-09 budget.

Heegaard said that in the Colorado model, the state gives one-third of its higher-education budget to institutions based on its core areas. At the University, one of the core areas would be research, she said.

The rest of the money is divided per student, she said.

Funding higher education students directly wouldn’t take away from the already-established student state grant program, Heegaard said.

Though tuition could increase, Heegaard said, she didn’t think it necessarily would.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said Pawlenty’s plan is something she’s heard before.

It indicates higher tuition and more aid for students, she said.

“We’ve never really gotten that. We’ve just got higher tuition without increasing aid,” she said.

Kahn said using Colorado as an example is a bad idea. She suggested Pawlenty look at other states where higher education is more successful.

House Higher Education Finance Committee Chairman Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said his committee will discuss Pawlenty’s proposal during this session.

Though it’s too early to tell, he said, he thinks there will be disagreement on the issue.

“I’m not sure if we will be adopting that policy,” he said.

Research partnership

Pawlenty also said he wants to build a genomics lab in Rochester as part of Mayo Clinic’s partnership with the University.

Building the lab is one of two components in the partnership. Pawlenty included the project in his bonding bill during the last legislative session. The bonding bill funds construction projects.

He promised he won’t sign the bonding bill this session unless it includes the project.

“That’s a popular project,” Kahn said. “The governor wants it. The Senate and the House both want it.”

Nornes said the partnership and the lab are important to Minnesota.

The second component includes funding research.

Two years ago, Pawlenty announced the partnership between Mayo Clinic and the University.

Before the affiliation, they were competitors in medical research. Together, they can accomplish more and be more globally competitive, Pawlenty said.

“The strength of their coming together will be an awesome force in the world’s medical research marketplace, and it will bring great benefit to Minnesota,” he said.

University in Rochester

Pawlenty proposed building a university in Rochester because, he said, it needs a higher-education leadership structure. His state budget will include $3 million for such leadership in Rochester, he said.

The Rochester area is projected to grow by 70 percent in the next 25 years, and its economic vitality is growing, Pawlenty said.