April 17, 2023

At the Capitol, Dual Credit Programs Fail to Make the Cut

By Madie Spartz

It’s been a busy few months at the Capitol and legislators are gearing up for the final sprint after their spring break. A few blockbuster policies that will serve Minnesota kids, most notably universal school meals, have captured the attention of policymakers and the public alike. But what’s going on with college and career readiness? In Minnesota, students of color are less likely than white students to have access to rigorous coursework, graduate from high school, and enroll in college. Despite those and other inequities, only a few college & career readiness policies have gained real traction and made it into the near-final education omnibus bills. We outline those policies below, review others that have stalled out, and discuss what’s coming next in this year’s 93rd Legislature. 

What’s in the Omnibus Bills?

Last week, Education Finance committees in both the House and Senate held hearings on their respective education omnibus bills. Both the Senate and House omnibus bills include:

  • the Read Act, which includes changes to literacy instruction and support, including universal screeners for reading mastery & dyslexia and individualized reading support for students not proficient by grade 4. 
  • $4 million in funding for concurrent enrollment programs, known as “College in the High School.” 

One promising policy included in the Senate omnibus, but not the House, is waiving SAT and ACT exam fees for low-income students – assessments that continue to be barriers for low-income students. Likewise, the House includes a proposal that was left out of the Senate omnibus bill: the establishment of Career and Technical Education (CTE) consortium grants. These consortia are partnerships between districts, colleges, and businesses to develop career pathways for students, pursue new career and technical career programs, and improve access to CTE.

What’s Missing?

While many college & career readiness bills were filed this session, relatively few have made it out of committee or into omnibus bills. Two proposals that EdAllies prioritized heavily – automatic enrollment into advanced coursework and a World’s Best Workforce indicator for which students are on-track to graduate high school by the end of 9th grade – were championed by lead authors and supporters but were not prioritized for hearings by committee leadership.

The initial version of both the House and Senate omnibus bills included $3 million in funding for increasing access to rigorous coursework for underrepresented students, including AP classes, PSEO, and concurrent enrollment, as well as a one-time appropriation for a pilot program to “fully fund” PSEO. Both provisions were included in the Governor’s Budget Recommendations for the 2024-2025 biennium, and the PSEO funding pilot was a key recommendation in a report on improving dual enrollment options published in collaboration with MDE, the University of Minnesota, and Minnesota State. However, both policies- expansion for access to rigorous coursework and the PSEO pilot- were cut after the first round of amendments. 

Other policies that have stalled out include allowing students to receive credit for postsecondary courses taken outside the regular school year and making the FAFSA, or state financial aid application, mandatory for all students.

What Happens Next?

Both House and Senate education omnibus bills passed out of committee, making their way to the full legislative bodies for debate and a vote. Once passed, the education omnibus bills will go to a conference committee, in which 5 representatives from each body hash out the details and present a final bill for the Governor to sign. 

While anything is possible and there is still plenty of time left in the legislative session, there are limited pathways to acting on  college & career readiness policies that haven’t already been added to the education omnibus bill. That means, while there is much to celebrate in both omnibus bills, many innovative approaches to expand college & career readiness have been left on the cutting room floor. EdAllies will continue to monitor debates, amendments, and any changes to these bills in the coming weeks—and will be ready to push those that didn’t make it across the finish line during the second year of the biennium. Stay tuned for updates and our final recap of the legislative session after it adjourns in May.

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