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Larry Pogemiller, Director of Minnesota Office of Higher Education spoke to a class at Bemidji State University on Thursday afternoon, talking about higher education funding. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

Higher ed commissioner Pogemiller visits BSU: Talks future of state funding for colleges, tuition freeze

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BEMIDJI — Minnesota’s top official on higher education visited BSU Thursday, and spoke about a “turning point” in the state government’s attitude toward college.

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Higher Education Commissioner Larry Pogemiller said there has been a shift in the thinking, of both DFLers and Republicans, away from a decade of higher ed funding cuts and toward new money being allocated to colleges in the state and students themselves. He described the added funding that helped lead to a freeze on tuition at schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU) and the University of Minnesota.

Pogemiller, a former DFL state senator, said the efforts of the legislature to aid higher ed were unprecedented during his time in state government.

“I was in the state legislature for 30 years,” he said. “In that period, I never saw a time where post-secondary education was the highest priority of the legislature and the governor. That happened last session.”

He also said it was likely that BSU’s request for bonding money from the state for extensive campus renovations would be approved. The college has two strong things going for it in that Gov. Dayton included the renovations on his list of preferred bonding projects, and they were also high on the priority list put forward by MnSCU, Pogemiller said.

“Those are usually two things that are definitive,” he said.

The Minnesota Legislature is expected to pass a bonding bill that may include the renovations sometime during the current session.

In response to an audience question on how the current MnSCU freeze on tuition hikes would affect the cost students pay after it expires, Pogemiller responded by saying historically tuiton “jumps” after freezes.

“I think there’s a possibility it’ll be frozen again, I don’t know,” he said. “But I do think that evidence is pretty clear that after the freeze is gone, (tuition) starts galloping again.”

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