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The Senate passed a higher education finance bill that includes $250 million in additional funding and a tuition freeze at the state's public colleges and universities by a 44-22 vote on Friday. Six Republicans joined all DFLers in voting for the measure.

Higher ed finance bill clears Senate with bipartisan support

Sen. Terri Bonoff

The Senate passed a higher education finance bill that includes $250 million in additional funding and a tuition freeze at the state’s public colleges and universities by a 44-22 vote on Friday. Six Republicans joined all DFLers in voting for the measure.

The increased funding includes $102 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, $79 million for the University of Minnesota and $75 million for the state’s tuition assistance program.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Terri Bonoff, chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, also includes the “Dream Act,” which allows undocumented high school graduates to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities.

Another provision that sparked some controversy is $1.5 million in funding for Teach for America, a program that links up recent college graduates with struggling schools. Gov. Mark Dayton has raised concerns about it, suggesting the possibility that he could strike it through a line-item veto.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann and other Republicans who opposed the bill argued that there has not been enough done to reduce costs at the state’s public colleges and universities. “I’m disappointed that we haven’t put more emphasis on trying to reform the higher education system and it is in desperate need of it.”

The six Republicans voting for the bill: Jeremy Miller of Winona, Carla Nelson of Rochester, John Pederson of St. Cloud, Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls, Dave Senjem of Rochester and Bill Weber of Luverne.

The bill passed out of a conference committee on Thursday evening. The House is expected to take up the companion measure later on Friday.

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