Larry Pogemiller, director of the Minnesota
Office of Higher Education, now a cabinet-level agency, said his
- Advises Gov. Mark Dayton on higher education policy;
- Manages state financial aid, the state grant program,
work-study, child care grants, American Indian scholarships, tuition
reciprocity and a subsidized loan program;
- Analyzes data about students and postsecondary education;
- Registers private degree-granting institutions, such as St.
- Licenses non-degree career schools, like beautician schools;
- Is the vehicle for various federal grants for colleges;
- Acts as the pass-through agency for the collaboration of all the
postsecondary libraries in the state; and
- Administers United Family Practice grants for medical education
and the Minnesota Minority Educational Partnership program that
helps minorities enter postsecondary education.
The Office of Higher Education registers,
but doesn't license, private, for-profit colleges.
In response to a question, Pogemiller said his office registers
the colleges, which is "not quite as heavy as licensure." He said the
office compares the faculty and course information the colleges
provide to check whether they have enough capacity to do what they say
they're doing. It's short of going in and finding out if they're
delivering a quality baccalaureate. "We don't have the resources to do
that," he remarked.
He commented, though, that "for-profit
colleges will drive themselves out of the market if they don't show
better graduation rates."
Higher education is in a transition period
Pogemiller commented, "There's a growing recognition that higher
education is basically a market system, not a public system, like
K-12. All colleges have a vested interest in how we can better
facilitate higher attainment and higher quality education."
Education accounts for about three-fourths
of the new investment proposed in the governor's budget.
Pogemiller noted that Gov. Mark Dayton is recommending $1 billion in
new investment in his budget and that about three-fourths of that is
in education: early childhood, K-12 and higher education. The proposed
new investment in higher education is $240 million, which is the
largest percentage increase in any area of the budget.
The governor's budget calls for a balanced
investment of $240 million in postsecondary education, focused on
- $80 million for direct financial aid to students. When this
increase in direct aid is implemented, he said, there will be over
100,000 students in Minnesota getting a grant, with an average grant
increase of $300. The governor is also recommending putting in
enough money to eliminate the 400-person waiting list for American
Indian scholarships and assuring adequate funds for tuition
reciprocity with Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. The
investment in direct aid to students through the state grant program
is the largest percentage increase in the program in 25 years and
the largest dollar increase in the history of the program,
Pogemiller noted. It expands eligibility to over 5,000 students,
including 2,000 students in the $60,000 to $120,000 middle-income
range. It is targeted to try to increase eligibility to
- $80 million to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU)
system. The funding would be used for internships and
apprenticeships, machinery at technical schools and retaining
faculty by providing pay increases.
- $80 million to the University of Minnesota. The funding,
contingent on an audit looking at administrative costs, is to be
used to freeze tuition for two years and to help fund four research
areas the University has recommended: (1) robotics, sensors and
advanced manufacturing; (2) neuromodulation, a treatment that
delivers either electricity or drugs to nerves in order to change
their activity;(3) global food supply; (4)conserving the
environment, while also promoting economic development.
Direct student aid enjoys more support than
aid to institutions.
Responding to a question, Pogemiller said he thinks the
institutional support for MnSCU and the University of Minnesota is
more at risk at the Legislature than direct student aid. There is
polling that says Minnesota citizens would, by overwhelming numbers,
put money into direct student aid, rather than into institutional aid.
"The governor has decided to do this in a
balanced fashion," he said. "A real hard-core person would say, 'Why
give any money directly to the institutions? Let them figure it out.
They're in a market system.'"
An interviewer asked whether an increase in
state grant funding would encourage colleges to increase prices.
Pogemiller answered that about 25 percent of students get state grants
and that's not enough to drive price. He said that research at the
federal level has found that the federal Pell grant, which is a much
bigger number, doesn't drive price.
Gov. Mark Dayton sees early childhood
funding as part of the investment in higher education.
"Because of our demographics, if you don't have this emerging
population of poor kids and kids of color prepared to be successful in
K-12, we have no chance of maintaining our high level of postsecondary
attainment," Pogemiller said.
He noted that the governor has taken a
balanced approach of direct aid to students and institutional aid in
both higher education and early childhood. In early childhood
education, the governor has funded scholarships (direct aid) and
matched that with funding for all-day kindergarten (institutional
aid). "I think this tension between institutional support and direct
aid is in play in both postsecondary and early childhood," Pogemiller
Minnesota needs a law accommodating the
possibility of credit being given for free online courses.
In response to a question about the University of Minnesota announcing
a partnership with Coursera, a major provider of Massive Open Online
Courses (MOOCs), Pogemiller said Coursera is moving rapidly toward
credit and accreditation for the courses. "We have to draw a Minnesota
statute that accommodates the possibly that there might be credits
here," he said. "Currently, if you offer credits and if you charge
somebody, you have to pay a fee to Minnesota to be registered. That
would have been several hundred thousand dollars for Coursera. We have
some kind of responsibility for consumer protection, so we're going to
try to find a balance between registration and openness that allows
the University to partner with these emerging providers."
Pogemiller said we should use MOOCs in a
blended-learning approach to enrich classroom learning. This should
lead to a much richer combination of technology and face-to-face
mentoring that will allow better education for more people. "Faculty
will be what they've always said they wanted to be: Socrates in the
cave," he said. "They'll be guiding and, in a Socratic way, helping
Pogemiller's office is recommending to the
Legislature that the governor be given the power to appoint the chair
of the Higher Education Advisory Committee.
The Committee currently has five members: the director of the Office
of Higher Education; the president of the University of Minnesota; the
chancellor of MnSCU; a private, nonprofit college representative and a
for-profit college representative. The University and MnSCU decide who
In addition to recommending that the
governor appoint the chair, Pogemiller's office is recommending that
the Commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic
Development (DEED) be added to the Advisory Committee.
"It's more likely the governor will follow
the advice of the committee if he appoints the chair," Pogemiller
said. In response to a question, he said neither he nor the governor
would oppose having generalist citizens on the board. "If the group
gets too large, it can't go anywhere," he continued. "We must try to
find the correct balance between key players and public input. Twenty
or thirty people are way too many."
Elected officials have less control than
they might assume over the amount of tuition postsecondary
An interviewer asked about student debt and the discounting of
list-price tuition through scholarships. He commented that with steep
rises in tuition, families now feel that even the discounted tuition
is too high. Some schools have already discounted their tuition by 50
percent, which the interviewer called unsustainable.
Pogemiller responded that over the last 10
years, growth in tuition has outpaced both inflation and growth in
family income by three times. Through the state grant program, elected
officials can provide some semblance of access to low- and
"If you believe in student choice, let's
protect lower- and lower-moderate-income people with the state grant
program to allow them to choose the best college for them," he said.
"Let the institutions take care of their own price model. We try to
put out the best information to consumers to allow the market forces
to work. Collecting data about who is successful and in what
environment will help us understand that more directly helping
families get to the institution that best fits their students' needs
is the right path."
Average debt for Minnesota baccalaureates
who incur debt is $29,800, third highest in the nation. Pogemiller
said Minnesota is fifth highest in the percentage of people who take
out debt: 71 percent.
He noted that $7 billion is spent in
Minnesota on higher education. Of that amount, between 75 percent and
82 percent comes out of families' pockets. The bulk of the money is
not public money. The fastest growing part of the family contribution
Pogemiller, MnSCU Chancellor Steven
Rosenstone and Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius are working
on a redesign of grades 11 to 14.
"We're basically dismantling high school and redesigning it to
make it more personalized for students," Pogemiller said.
He outlined three kinds of students in high
- The high flyers, those students involved in postsecondary
enrollment options, college-in-high-school, and Advanced Placement
and International Baccalaureate;
- The middle-range students, for whom the academic and social
challenge of high school is about right; and
- The underachieving and undergraduating students, who are,
by-and-large, kids in poverty and kids of color.
The grades 11 to 14 concept, Pogemiller
said, is to:
- Align the assessment system. Focus not on the high school
diploma, but on whether students are ready to do postsecondary work.
"We'd like to slow down the number of people needing remedial
courses at college, by assessing earlier and intervening as early as
ninth or tenth grade," he said.
- Target earlier the students not on course. This also
includes an investment in early childhood, not just waiting till
they get into ninth grade.
- Open up access to advanced learning for high school students.
Examples include post-secondary enrollment options, Advanced
Placement, International Baccalaureate and concurrent enrollment.
- Provide realistic learning and career planning using digital
devices. An application for phone or iPad would keep records of
students' educational experience and outline their job possibilities
based on that experience.
"The technology is absolutely out there to
create this application," Pogemiller said. "This is going to be a
living, breathing, evolving plan that the students own. It empowers
the young person to see some vistas they might not otherwise see. This
is not a panacea; it's in addition to counseling and adult faculty
This would allow schools and faculty, he
said, to personalize what they're doing with each individual student
in order to make the time they're spending with students productive.
It could lead to faculty designing particular types of courses for
their cohorts of students.
Change in higher education is challenging.
In conclusion, Pogemiller said, "As someone who spent most of his
time in the Legislature on K-12 education issues, I'm stunned at how
challenging it is to create change in higher education."