After a long and challenging legislative session and a complex special session, our local legislators have ensured that public higher education in Winona remains well-supported. Senator Jeremy Miller and Representative Gene Pelowski both played critical roles in the bipartisan agreement that was ultimately signed by Governor Mark Dayton.
As Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate, Sen. Miller helped craft the vision and strategy from that body for its Republican majority. As one of the most senior legislators in the House, Rep. Pelowski helped build the coalition necessary for bills to pass the House. Few legislators in either body played a more significant role, and Winona had the advantage of not one but two powerful leaders ensuring that good things would happen for our community.
And what good things they are, even if one just considers the achievements in higher education. In particular, public higher education was boosted in two primary ways: funding for higher education, and a bonding bill for facilities projects.
The Higher Education Bill includes language to keep Minnesota State College Southeast and Winona State University strong, while also keeping tuition as affordable as possible. Tuition will be held to a zero percent increase for both Fall 2017 and Fall 2018 at MSC Southeast, and held to a 0 percent increase for Fall 2018 at WSU. This makes six years straight of very low or no tuition increases, and in the case of the state colleges, there has even been a tuition reduction.
Some states impose tuition caps in ways that dramatically cut funding to higher education, close needed programs, and harm students, but thanks to our legislators, that’s not how it happened here. Funding has also been provided to ensure that program quality is maintained through the biennium, and the bill included an increase to the State Grant Program, which benefits private colleges and universities.
In addition to the Higher Ed Bill, the legislature passed an extensive capital investment or “bonding” bill. The bonding bill includes $25 million for Phase 2 of the Education Village at Winona State. WSU was founded for the purpose of preparing teachers, and is internationally known for its educational model. The Education Village will not only help WSU prepare the best teachers, it will provide new opportunities to K12 students and their teachers from the public and private schools in Winona. The bonding bill also includes funding for asset preservation projects, including improvements to the roof of Phelps Hall on the WSU campus.
These bills directly channel jobs and economic vitality to Winona, and help create a prosperous future for our community. They show that reaching across the aisle and seeking common agreement and the greater good is still a Minnesota tradition that yields tremendous benefits to taxpayers and citizens. Please join us in thanking Rep. Pelowski and Sen. Miller for their service to Minnesota and for all the good that they do for Winona!
Scott R. Olson, President, Winona State University
Dorothy Duran, President, Minnesota State College Southeast