Mixed messages

The University of Minnesota is working to balance a variety of interests and identities.

by Daily Editorial Board

The University of Minnesota has a unique identity as the state’s flagship university, a premiere research institution and a Big Ten school.

With each of these identities comes a certain set of parameters that the University must meet in order to be competitive. As the state’s largest public university, it is obligated to provide an affordable education to Minnesotans. As a center for research, it must have state-of-the-art laboratories and research facilities as well as attract prestigious faculty members and acquire research dollars. On top of these two educational missions, the University must also fight to stay competitive in the Big Ten by recruiting top high school athletes and funding new athletics facilities.

Not surprisingly, the University’s split personality attracts a wide variety of students. The Minnesota Daily reported Tuesday that the University’s Twin Cities campus had acquired more than 42,000 applications for fall 2013 admission in part of a decade-long trend in increased applicants.

Many of those applicants are from out of state, as the University has reciprocity agreements with neighboring states and heavy recruiting efforts in California and Illinois.

It seems the Twin Cities’ dominance as the state’s flagship school for Minnesota high school students to attend is waning. Students who might have traditionally been accepted at the University might now be a better fit for other colleges under the University umbrella or in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

The state Legislature should understand the University’s conflicting roles when criticizing administrative bloat or considering funding projects. It stands out among its public peers as it increases its reputation on a national and international scale.

The University certainly has a role to play in creating opportunities and advancing knowledge in this state, but as its interests become increasingly international, there is more room for other state colleges and universities to play a larger role in educating Minnesota.