Bill would add two students to regents council

A House committee passed it Wednesday.

by Libby George

University students should have a voice in the selection of Board of Regents members, the House Higher Education Committee said Wednesday.

A committee-passed bill would add two student members to the Regent Candidate Advisory Council, a 24-member body established in 1988 to recruit and identify regent candidates.

Jake Elo, a Carlson School of Management junior and student regents representative, said students have a say on every selection committee up to and including the presidential search.

Elo said that since the board chooses which programs are eliminated and consolidated within the University – which affects all students – students should be represented in regent selection.

The Senate president and the House speaker would each appoint a student member to the council, and a student would serve one two-year term. The Legislature also chooses other council members who serve six-year terms.

Council Chairwoman Rondi Erickson was unavailable for comment on the bill.

Summer cash crunch

As the state faces significant shortfalls in its grant program, grant money for students taking summer classes might become a thing of the past.

A bill introduced last week by committee Chairman Doug Stang, R-Cold Spring, was considered for inclusion in an upcoming omnibus bill – which will include all committee higher education funding recommendations.

“These are just items we have to discuss,” Stang said, adding that other recent additions to the grant program should also be looked at for elimination. “We need to clearly define a front for students so they know what to expect.”

Committee members – as well as Minnesota State Universities Student Association Chairman Yorgun Marcel – criticized the bill.

“Our position is, ultimately, we need to ask ourselves what our ultimate goals are. To eliminate summer grants would only impact students more and increase the number of students who are turned away from our system,” Marcel said.

He added that MSUSA advocated prorating child care and work-study grants – which would adjust the sum of money students receive based on availability – rather than eliminate summer grants.

Minnesota Student Association Legislative Affairs Committee Chairman Andy Pomroy said MSA has not taken an official position on the bill – although he said it would impact University students.

“I don’t think a lot of students would be in favor of that bill,” Pomroy said. “It’s obviously unfair for students who have to take classes that are only offered in the summer.”

Narrow the scope

Also under the funding ax are grants for students attending private, for-profit higher education institutions.

The contentious bill would remove for-profit institutions from state grant program eligibility – which legislative analyst Kathy Novak said would save approximately $12.1 million.

“Do we really want to give state money to a for-profit organization?” asked bill author Marty Seifert, R-Marshall.

Private schools have been “big winners in the jackpot of the Legislature,” he added, and two-year private colleges – which make up the majority of for-profit schools – have seen grant money increase approximately 31 percent since 1988.

Although Marcel also testified against this bill, committee members were suspicious of its benefits.

“If we do have private, for-profit schools that are accredited by the federal grant program, I’m not sure that we should remove that as an option for students,” said Rep. Ray Cox, R-Northfield.

Marcel said MSUSA does not oppose those schools receiving grant money; however, he said there need to be priorities in the budget crunch.

“We believe in priority during tough times Ö the numbers are there, and they are staggering to (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities) as well as the University of Minnesota,” Marcel said in reference to the more than 50 percent of grant money that goes to private schools.

“I don’t think (we would support it), just because it doesn’t affect us,” Pomroy said, adding that it would be “overstepping” MSA’s bounds to take an official position.