Last week was filled with long committee hearings and Senate floor sessions. Legislators have been discussing several omnibus policy and finance bills. Below is a highlight of one of these omnibus bills, the Higher Education Finance and Policy Omnibus bill.

Higher education issues debated

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Senate passed Senate File 1236, the Higher Education Finance and Policy Omnibus bill.

As Lead Republican on the Higher Education Committee, I am very proud of passing this forward-thinking, bipartisan piece of legislation.

The 2013 Higher Education Finance and Policy Omnibus bill sets the appropriations and policies for the upcoming biennium (Fiscal Years 2014-15) that will govern the University of Minnesota (U of M), Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) and the Office of Higher Education (OHE).

OHE oversees and distributes state and federal financial aid to eligible students.

My goal this session was to work with MnSCU, U of M and the Private Colleges and Universities to make sure our students are getting the education they need to be successful in the workforce at an affordable price.

Senate File 1236 accomplishes this goal as students are the winners of this legislation. Below are a few highlights of the Higher Ed Omnibus bill.

Senate File 1236 increases funding to the state grant program for student scholarships to the public or private Minnesota school of their choice.

It increases the U of M appropriation to specifically freeze tuition over two years and also provides more flexibility for online courses.

This legislation includes needed reforms and accountability measures to make sure we're using taxpayer dollars efficiently in our higher education systems.

Five percent, or approximately $30 million, is dependent on our higher education systems each reaching "performance goals."

Examples of these goals include increasing STEM graduates, reducing administrative expenditures and increasing the number of graduates.

Lastly, policies included in this bill help reach students who are working part-time to receive aid for college under our existing state grant scholarship program as well as helps veterans receive educational credits towards graduate programs.

Local visits always welcome

Home and Community Options, Winona State students and professors, Minnesotans United for All Families, Tri-County Electric employees and Riverway Community School staff members all were recent visitors to the capitol.

As always, you are key to helping me understand the issues that affect you. I welcome and encourage you to call (651) 296-5649 or email