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Office of Higher Education boosts oversight of for-profit colleges

Plus: Xcel Energy customers to see rate hike; legal trouble for the Boy Scouts; MPR’s parent company sells Florida stations; and more.

“Long overdue” would be an understatement. At MPR, Alex Friedrich says, “For-profit colleges in Minnesota have been coming under increasing scrutiny in the past year. The state Office of Higher Education has been sending out ‘secret shoppers’ to see whether colleges are dealing honestly with prospective students. It’s starting to compare notes with the state Attorney General’s Office. Its new watchdog also is investigating an increasing number of student complaints. … amid a national federal crackdown on unethical recruiting and financial practices by some for-profit schools, a U.S. Senate committee report criticized states for being too passive in monitoring them. Now Minnesota’s stance appears to be changing.” Paging Rep. Kline.

Very sad. The AP says, “A 14-year-old boy who developed a rare brain infection after swimming in a Minnesota lake died Thursday … . The Centers for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health have been trying to confirm whether the youth’s infection was the result of the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, but said Thursday that they don’t have a definitive timeline for getting results.”

The end of the coal age means … closing coal-fired power plants. Brady Slater of the Duluth News Tribune says, “As part of the company’s shift away from smaller coal-fired plants, Duluth-based Minnesota Power will idle its Taconite Harbor Energy Center beginning in the fall of 2016. Located in the North Shore town of Schroeder, Taconite Harbor Energy Center currently produces 150 of the company’s 1900 megawatts of power. The move was first announced in a meeting with the plant’s 42 employees Thursday and in a news release later in the day. The company will cease coal-fired operations at Taconite Harbor entirely by the end of 2020.”

This fight, again. Brian Bakst of the AP says, “A group of Minnesota police chiefs plan to ask a state agency for temporary restrictions on access to police body camera footage after they did not convince Minnesota lawmakers to limit public availability. The chiefs, led by Maplewood’s Paul Schnell, intend to approach Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration next month for a ruling that would make much of the footage off-limits to a general public that can now obtain it with few exceptions.

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If they consistently screw up the billing, maybe they ought to start writing off the premiums. Says Mark Zdechlik at MPR, “Ongoing technical problems at MNsure mean thousands of Minnesotans have not received a single bill for their MinnesotaCare health coverage this year. Officials say technical glitches that prevented billing for 24,000 MinnesotaCare policies have finally been resolved. But the problems have left some Minnesotans frustrated and worried about big bills that may be coming soon.”

The Glean

Uh, did someone miss The Duluth Grill? The Gunflint Tavern? At City Pages, Mecca Bos is of the opinion that there are only three places worth grabbing some grub between Duluth and Grand Marais. This one is spot on: 1. World’s Best Donuts  Just like their cousin, the worth-the-drive-list, ‘world’s best’ places are rarely that. We (me, too) bandy around the word ‘best’ with the sort of wild abandon that gets MPR listeners’ practical cotton briefs all up in a bunch. The best is the best. Nothing can be better. So, we like World’s Best Donuts in Grand Marais because they opened in 1969 under the practical, modest, businesslike name Donut Shop. … The old-fashioned cake, the raised glazed, the twists, and the Long Johns are all textbook perfect, dough with the anti-gravity of cotton and glaze that hasn’t any time to harden or crack (the line spills out the door at all hours). Pro tip: The cinnamon pull aparts are tender yet dense love in a loaf, just large and small enough to share with someone you really, really like. Otherwise, buy two. This is serious business.” You will of course hate yourself in the morning.

GOP Rep. Tim Kelly tries to explain, in a Strib commentary, how his party thought “outside the box” on behalf of “hard working Minnesotans.” “Recognizing that it defied common sense to raise taxes with a $2 billion budget surplus, Republicans developed and approved a plan that would have invested $7 billion over the next 10 years in our roads and bridges. We were able to do this in part by directing existing general fund revenues that are collected from auto-related sales taxes — dollars hardworking Minnesotans already have entrusted us with to fulfill the duties of the state. … The Star Tribune Editorial Board may be resistant to change when it comes to funding transportation, but Republicans are not.” By the sound of it you’d almost think they did something.

Speaking of energy costs, Dave Shaffer of the Strib reports, “Residential customers of Xcel Energy in Minnesota later this year will see a small increase in their electric bills along with a one-time refund under a rate structure approved Thursday by state regulators. It’s the seventh electric rate hike for the utility’s 1.2 million customers since 2006 — and more increases could be down the road.” We fully expect Mr. Kelly to have an “outside the box” solution for this, too.

Legal trouble for the Boy Scouts. Marino Eccher’s PiPress story says, “The new lawsuits filed Thursday in Ramsey County District Court claim the Boy Scouts systematically failed to warn or protect members or the public from the danger posed by child abusers within its ranks. Jeff Anderson, the attorney for [David] Lundquist and fellow plaintiff Steven Josephson, used a similar public nuisance claim to force disclosure of local Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse.”

Not a quality investment. Martin Moylan at MPR explains, “American Public Media Group, the parent company of Minnesota Public Radio, will take about an $8 million loss on the sale of its south Florida classical music stations, according to a report in Current, a trade publication that covers public media. APMG spent almost $30 million, starting in 2007, to acquire the stations. But they’ll only fetch $22 million in a sale to a religious broadcaster, Current reported.” Since it’s Florida, I suppose they already have mullet and tank top-formatted stations.