University, MnSCU collaborate on metro higher-education needs

by Kristin Gustafson

Although 87 percent of Minnesota’s population growth is expected to occur in the Twin Cities area, the metro area does not have a state university to service less-prepared students, according to information presented at Thursday’s regents’ Education Planning and Policy Committee meeting.
Together with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, the University needs to address this and other economic and demographic challenges facing the state’s metropolitan areas, said Michael O’Keefe, the committee chairman.
A MnSCU report due to the Legislature this fall will address meeting needs of lower-income and less well-prepared students. Linda Baer, MnSCU’s vice chancellor for academic affairs, summarized the plan for the regents on the committee.
A metro alliance of 10 universities and colleges, including the University and MnSCU schools, is working to make these schools’ admission and transfer policies seamless.
Students should be able to go in any door of any institution and be treated as if they are going through the door of any of the other institutions, Baer said.
“The Legislature continues to be very interested in what we are doing,” Baer said.
The University’s interest in the issues developed partly out of its obligation as a land-grant university and partly out of a 1998 legislative request for MnSCU to work on a metropolitan higher-education plan in consultation with the University.
Bob Bruininks, provost and vice president, said metropolitan educational issues tie into many University goals, including higher-education access, retention and graduation; pre-college academic preparation; continuing education; and lifelong learning.
Under-preparedness of metropolitan students is an educational policy the University has a community obligation to address, Bruininks said.
The University already has outreach programs addressing literacy and computer access in place.
But Bruininks said he wants to see the University share more of its knowledge with K-12 schools.
“My sense is that this is the beginning of a fine friendship,” O’Keefe said.

Kristin Gustafson covers University administration and welcomes comments at She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3211.