Every serious student of public policy In Minnesota needs to see at least the executive summary of an important new study out this week by the highly respected Itasca Project. The IP is a group of corporate and community leaders that has led the way in the past with consensus-seeking studies on transportation investment, early childhood education needs, and the education achievement gap. The Itasca Project's latest report elevates higher education improvement and attainment as the key to sustained economic growth in Minnesota. Among the findings and recommendations in Higher Education Partnerships for Prosperity:
- Future growth will require "deeper and more relevant skills from the workforce and increased innovation from researchers, entrepreneurs and businesses." By 2018, 70 percent of Minnesota jobs will require postsecondary education.
- Pressure on state budgets during the decade from 2000 to 2010 drove a 35% reduction in public funding per student in Minnesota, which drove up tuition and raised barriers to completion. (My editorial comment: these cuts were driven by an anti-government, anti-tax pledge that was unconscionable, and cutting higher education was dumber than eating seed corn).
- Minnesota strategically needs to: align academic offerings with workforce needs, foster an "ecosystem of research and innovation," form "new collaborations" to "optimize system-wide intellectual assets and efficiency," and (duh, editorial comment again) "graduate more students."
At Growth & Justice, we've been urging for several years now that policymakers set a clear goal for the state for postsecondary completion of 75 percent for all young adults by 2020. Put another way, the best route to sustained prosperity in Minnesota is to ensure that at least three out of four young adults have some sort of post high-school certificate or credential that enables them to enjoy a more productive career and realize their fuller human potential. And this imperative is particularly important for our kids of color, who currently are lagging far behind in academic achievement and attainment. Developing their potential is our best opportunity for business growth and productivity.