Recently, the Board of Regents set a goal for the University: to become one of the top three public research institutions in the world. And it wants to do it within the decade.
Several other flagship universities in other states can claim prestigious research reputations, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California-Berkeley. Building such a reputation for the University of Minnesota will take time and many resources but is ultimately a worthy goal.
Now, the regents and University of Minnesota administration must make some difficult choices and changes. On the table for restructuring are General College and the College of Human Ecology, with the programs from both possibly being integrated into other colleges, as well as the development of a “Regents Honors College” for high-achieving students.
The trade-off for these changes is the potential loss of diversity on campus. The University of Minnesota is currently accessible to a broad variety of Minnesotans by having General College to provide opportunities to students who would otherwise be unable to attend the University of Minnesota, including many minority students from urban high schools.
Integrating General College into the College of Education and Human Development, as proposed, will only be acceptable if the University of Minnesota continues to offer opportunities for students who, otherwise, would not be able to attend the University, at least in the short term.
Over time, the University of Minnesota must focus on better recruiting efforts toward qualified minority students to maintain its diversity. Minority students are disproportionately represented in General College partly because many inner-city schools do not provide the education needed to be accepted into other University of Minnesota programs. The State Legislature must address this issue at the primary- and secondary- education levels and take the onus off the University of Minnesota.
Focusing more on research will attract more top professors and students. In turn, it will bring more funding from private grants. The Legislature might not play such a primary role in funding research at the University of Minnesota, which would be good.
If the regents are successful in their goal, hopefully, everyone at the University of Minnesota will benefit. There are trade-offs to consider, especially for those who are currently at the lower end of the admissions scale. But ultimately, a more prestigious reputation will increase the value of a degree from this institution and put us on par with other flagship universities in the country.