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Legislative Audit Commission


September 24, 2003

The Legislative Audit Commission meeting was called to order by Representative Tim Wilkin, Chair, at 1:4 P.M. in Room 200, State Office Building.

Members present:

Representative Lyndon Carlson Senator David Hann
Representative Sondra Erickson Senator Sheila Kiscaden
Representative Dan Larson Senator Ann H. Rest
Representative Aaron Peterson Senator Claire Robling
Representative Paul Thissen
Representative Connie Ruth
Representative Tim Wilkin

Members excused:

Representative Jeff Johnson Senator Thomas Neuville
Senator Jim Vickerman
Senator Yvonne Prettner Solon

Members absent:

Senator Richard Cohen

Other Legislators Present:

Representative Joe Opatz

Representative Wilkin recognized James Nobles, Legislative Auditor. Mr. Nobles indicated the first item on the agenda was to review the program evaluation report on tuition reciprocity and introduced Joel Alter, project manager.

Representative Wilkin recognized Mr. Alter. Mr. Alter introduced Adrienne Howard and Todd Wilkinson, evaluation specialists who had also worked on the report. Mr. Alter reviewed the different types of reciprocity agreements between the State of Minnesota and neighboring states and Manitoba and how they are funded. He reviewed the topics examined in the report, research methods used, findings, and recommendations contained in the report. He also reviewed the potential impact if agreements were changed. He noted that South Dakota has not made any payments to Minnesota since 1988, even though South Dakota state law and the reciprocity agreement requires them to do so. Mr. Alter answered questions from members. He noted that there has been very little legislative oversight of the reciprocity program. Representative Carlson suggested that if the agreements had a sunset date, it may adversely affect recruitment. Senator Rest said that a sunset would put the burden on the Legislature to act. She suggested that if such legislation was enacted, it should contain a provision that if no action was taken, the program would automatically be renewed.

Representative Wilkin recognized Robert Poch, Director of the Higher Education Services Office (HESO), and Jack Rayburn, Administrator of Programs at HESO. They reviewed their agency?s response contained in the report and answered questions from members. Senator Rest noted that there were substantial differences in the reciprocity agreements with neighboring states. Dr. Poch responded HESO has tried for a number of years to include the entire state of Iowa in an agreement, but the Iowa officials have not been interested in doing so. The new head of the Board of Regents has shown some interest in discussing a broader reciprocity agreement, and HESO will be pursuing that. Dr. Poch noted that the agreements with Wisconsin and North Dakota do not include fees, but the agreement with South Dakota does.

Representative Opatz noted that tuition is set by the individual institutions, and they often waive the out of state tuition for Iowa and foreign students. He suggested that Minnesota consider eliminating nonresident tuition and have tuition levels the same for everyone.

Mr. Poch said there are other reciprocity agreements drawn up by the Midwestern Higher Education Commission, but noted that those agreements are very different from Minnesota?s tuition reciprocity agreements, For example, Wisconsin is not part of MHEC?s student exchange program and the agreements are by institution, not statewide. He also noted that Minnesota is the only state in the country that has statewide agreements. In response to a question from Senator Kiscaden, he indicated that the agreements are for both full-time and part-time students.

Senator Hann asked why South Dakota was not required to make payments to Minnesota. Mr. Poch noted that the amount of money involved used to be very small. Mr. Rayburn noted it might not be in Minnesota?s best interest to pursue this retroactively, but could pursue this from this point forward. Mr. Rayburn said he was unaware that South Dakota law required interstate payments.

Representative Wilkin recognized James Nobles. Mr. Nobles reviewed a memo concerning the Department of Transportation?s (MnDOT) request that the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) review and consult with MnDOT on their land acquisition practices. He indicated OLA was encouraging MnDOT to go ahead on their own to hire a consultant to review those practices and that OLA would not be involved in the selection of that consultant. Mr. Nobles indicated the Commission could include this topic in the list of topics under consideration for study in 2004. He suggested the Commission speed up the selection process so that work on studies could begin earlier. Senator Rest suggested the Topic Selection Subcommittee start its work in January, with final selection of topics in February. Senator Kiscaden suggested that in the mean time, House or Senate Research could look at the land acquisition statutes of other states. Mr. Nobles indicated he would pass that request along to the directors of the two research offices.

The meeting adjourned at 3:25 PM.

Representative Tim Wilkin, Chair

Jean Barnhill, Recording Secretary


Office of the Legislative Auditor ♦ Room 140, 658 Cedar St., St. Paul, MN 55155