The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees today expressed its commitment to pursue any administrative or other options to stay open in the event of a government shutdown July 1.
Meeting in an emergency session, the board also indicated its support for the chancellor’s contingency planning if remaining open is no longer an option. “We are optimistic that a budget agreement will be reached before June 30,” said Chancellor James H. McCormick. “But we need to take steps now to prepare for any contingency.”
“Our students could be irreparably harmed if we are forced to shut down, and public higher education would be adversely affected for years,” said Board Chair Scott Thiss. “We cannot ask our students to put their lives on hold until this matter is resolved. They are depending on us to provide programs and services so they can complete their studies and move into the workforce.”
Many critical programs and services go on during July and August. Thousands of students – more than 67,000 – are taking summer classes that will extend at least through July. New and returning students are expecting to enroll and go through orientation sessions.
McCormick said: “We must do everything we can to avoid disruption of the education taking place this summer at Minnesota’s public colleges and universities. State law says the board should ‘strive to provide uninterrupted service and instruction to students’ and that’s our goal.”
Laura King, vice chancellor for finance and administration and chief financial officer, said the system is financially able to continue operating through the summer sessions and the fall semester. The system is seeking an arrangement with Minnesota Management and Budget, the state agency that processes the system’s payroll and financial transactions, that would allow the system access to its existing funds and to continue to operate, King said.
If the system is unable to obtain its cash from the state-run financial systems, the colleges and universities may be forced to shut down effective July 1 if the Legislature and governor do not reach an agreement.
In 2005, the shutdown did not directly affect the system because the higher education bill had been passed and signed into law. The system plans to begin sending layoff notices as soon as possible unless an agreement is reached with Minnesota Management and Budget, or the budget impasse is resolved by the governor and Legislature.