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« Moving from Inequality to Equity in our Region | Main | Inequality, education and innovation: U.S. higher on the first, slipping on the other two »

July 11, 2012


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Jim Bernstein

Two issues that Itasca did not consider: the silos at the Legisalture that divide education into three categories: Early Childhood, K-12, and Higher Ed. They scratch and claw for their share of funds and priorities but there is no comprehensive review or deliberation about education needs, priorities or funding in a the whole context,in one single committee. They (early Childhood, K-12, Higher Ed)are three components of a single process but for all intents and puposes, are divided into three distinct, unique entities. They are in fact three stages of one hugely important process and at some point, the Legislature ought to look at them that way.

The other question is one of higher education governance. MnSCU is a vast system that governs all public two and four year colleges not part of the University of Minnesota. MnSCU is charged with trying to balance the needs and interests of colleges offering a huge array of programming from basic certificates to doctorates. Aligning "workforce needs with academic offerings" as the Itasca Report recommends will never be achieved in a one-size-fits- all governance system that is as stuffed, padded, and stretched as MnSCU is.

One obvious solution is to align missions and reduce higher ed costs: either take the state universities out of MnSCU and reconfigure them as campuses of the University of Minnesota or create a new institution, Minnesota State University with campuses at St. Cloud, Mankato, Moorhead, Winona, Marshall (Southwest State), Bemidji, and St. Paul (Metro State).

The two year community and technical colleges could then become one system with an acute focus on technical workforce needs - which they already do for the most part - without having to compete with four year colleges which have an entirely different mission and function.

Our four year state universities began life (excluding Metro and Southwest State) primarily as teacher colleges. Their scope and mission have necessarily expanded well past that and are now in fact, much more like smaller versions of the University of Minnesota offering PhD and Masters level programs in addition to Bachelor's degrees.

Professional education is also a critical need in Minnesota just as is technical education; squeezing them into the same MnSCU box 12 years ago was a useful experiment but we can do better.

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