Bill would create a committee to plan a university in Rochester

Brady Averill

For almost 20 years, many people in Rochester, Minn., have wanted a nontraditional, four-year university.

Now, the city might get its chance.

Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, I-Rochester, said her constituents have “long-held aspirations” for improved higher education in Rochester.

The Senate Higher Education Budget Division discussed a bill for possible inclusion in the 2006-07 omnibus budget bill Tuesday that would establish a planning committee for a university in Rochester.

The bill would create an 11-member Rochester citizens’ council and give it $200,000 for planning. A regent from the University or an appointee could be included in the council.

Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, chairwoman of the budget division, said Rochester should maybe “put money where your mouth is” and help pay for a planning committee. Because of the state’s financial situation, she said, the city might need to invest.

The University and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are two higher education systems in Rochester that offer programs.

The four-year higher education institution could be a part of the University system, the MnSCU system, both systems or a third system, said Allan DeBoer, chairman of the Greater Rochester Area University Center Board’s higher education task force. The task force is composed of business and community leaders concerned about higher education.

He said the board’s preference is the University.

The goal is to expand the current programs various institutions offer in Rochester and build upon them, DeBoer said.

Donna Peterson, University associate vice president for government relations, said establishing a committee is Rochester’s and Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s effort, not the University’s.

“It’s creating this committee for the community to decide what they want,” she said.

Pawlenty made establishing a four-year higher education institution in Rochester an initiative when he announced his 2006-07 budget recommendation in January.

He included $3 million for implementation and $200,000 for planning in his budget.