House discusses MnSCU credit transfers and for-profits today

Just a preview of what's coming up today in the state House higher education committee.

It'll be discussing two Republican-sponsored bills:

  • HF717. This appears to force all institutions within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system to accept each other's transfer credits; and

  • HF378. This one requires the state Office of Higher Education to study how for-profit colleges run their graduate school programs, with an eye toward their contractual arrangements with students and protection of students' rights.

You may recall that last year a legislative audit found that many students in the MnSCU system were having problems transferring credits, and said transfers were still too difficult. Both houses of the legislature passed a bill that would have made it easier for students to have their credits transferred within MnSCU, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed it, saying the MnSCU was already working on the issue.

Just this week, MnSCU trustee Thomas Renier told the Senate that MnSCU has made "tremendous" progress on that issue and that the system is "95 percent of the way there."

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The credit-transfer bill was authored by Rep. Jim Abeler (Anoka), who is not on the higher-ed committee. The for-profit bill came from Rep. Peggy Scott (Andover), who is also not on the committee, along with committee chairman Bud Nornes (Fergus Falls) and members King Banaian (St. Cloud) and Mike Benson (R-Rochester).

Here are the texts of the bills:

HF717

Section 1. CREDIT TRANSFER WITHIN MINNESOTA STATE COLLEGES

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AND UNIVERSITIES.

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By February 15, 2012, the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and

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Universities must adopt a policy requiring every college and university of the Minnesota

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State Colleges and Universities to grant credit for a course that is taken for credit at any of

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the colleges or universities in the system. The policy must require the credit to transfer

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to the receiving institution at the same number of credits granted at the transferring

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institution. The policy may allow credits to transfer as an equal number of elective credits.

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The policy must require a transfer of credits consistent with this section beginning with

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courses taken for credit in the 2000-2001 academic year.

HF378

Section 1. STUDY OF GRADUATE EDUCATION IN FOR-PROFIT SECTOR.

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The Minnesota Office of Higher Education must study graduate education in the

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for-profit institutions that offer graduate education to Minnesota students. The study

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must examine the rights and responsibilities of graduate students attending for-profit

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institutions. At a minimum, the study must include an analysis of contractual arrangements

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with graduate students, fulfillment of these contracts by all parties, protection of graduate

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students' intellectual property rights, communication of well-defined expectations

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for completion of graduation requirements, provision of adequate notice of changing

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expectations for completion of graduate degrees, and ease of access by the graduate

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student to information on the policies and procedures of the institution. The study must

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evaluate the extent to which these institutions provide clear guidelines for graduate studies

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on due process, academic freedom of inquiry, and recourse for graduate students if a

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potential conflict of interest situation, including access to alternative dispute resolution

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systems, and provide examples of effective guidelines and policies. The office must report

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on the findings of this study by January 15, 2013, to the committees of the legislature with

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responsibility for higher education finance. The report must include recommendations for

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any changes to improve graduate education in the for-profit sector.