ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — With just 23 days to the possible state government shutdown, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities students and faculty are worried.
“It just can’t happen — it shouldn’t happen,” said Henok Fanta, a Business Administration senior at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.
But it will happen, if there’s no budget deal between Gov. Mark Dayton and state lawmakers by July 1. That’s when the state’s next budget biennium begins. But if there’s no budget agreement by June 30, most state agencies will have no money to continue operations.
It’s a big concern for the 67,000 students now enrolled in summer classes at the state’s 32 colleges, technical schools and universities. So on Wednesday, MnSCU trustees met in emergency session to prepare contingency plans.
“We remain hopeful that we will have a good outcome from the executive branch. But it’s our judgment that we should start these actions now in order to do the responsible job before we get to June 30,” said Laura King, MnSCU’s vice chancellor and chief operating officer.
King said the system has enough money in state accounts to keep operating. The problem is that it needs a special agreement from the Minnesota Management and Budget office to allow MnSCU access to its funds. The money would be needed to pay continuing operational costs and payroll.
Already, just the threat of a state shutdown is having negative impacts on student enrollment.
“We know by personal accounts on all our campuses that we’re losing students today to our neighboring states, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Iowa,” said Richard Davenport, president of Minnesota State University Mankato.
Worse yet, for students already enrolled, this is when their financial aid is processed for the next semester.
“Without the staff available to make that happen we’re going to end up with a number of students not getting classes, or financial aid in the fall,” Davenport said.
With their aid in the balance and summer classes on hold, students like Fanta worry it will mean costly delays, getting out of school and into the workforce.
Fanta said his senior level classes could be in jeopardy.
“They’re hard to get into and it took me this long to get into it. Come to find out, it might be closing, I’m not happy about it,” he said.