University, MnSCU plan to coordinate metro-area efforts

Erin Ghere

The state House of Representatives higher-education committee began work early Wednesday, hearing about a planned collaboration between University and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities officials.
Although the next legislative session does not begin until January 2000, committee members met Wednesday in mostly casual attire to listen to University and MnSCU plans intended to attract more high-school graduates and offer metro-area students more diverse higher-education options. MnSCU officials created the plan in consultation with the University.
The collaboration will target metro-area students who do not see higher education as an option and show them cost-effective, nontraditional avenues of learning.
MnSCU officials announced a new alliance between metro-area schools within their system, primarily technical and community colleges and Metropolitan State University.
Alliance representatives collaborated with the University on projects such as improving the MnSCU-University transfer process and developing joint admissions processes between MnSCU two-year colleges and the University.
“This program does a lot of things we have not had before within the University or the MnSCU system,” said Bob Bruininks, University vice president and provost.
He said the two systems have vision and focus, and collaboration will allow better use of public resources. The collaboration will also work with the expected metro-area growth in the future.
The collaboration benefits both systems, Bruininks said.
The University had to turn away 1,500 potential freshmen this year, but in a pilot program being discussed by officials, those students could enter any MnSCU two-year college instead. If those students complete the Minnesota transfer curriculum and keep their grades up, they would gain priority University admission.
Bruininks said these changes will make it “easier for students to begin planning their academic careers during high school.”
MnSCU and the University will establish a joint academic-planning group, according to the MnSCU alliance plan. The group will focus on the delivery of metro-area higher education as well as planning of alternative higher education within both systems, including Metropolitan State University, the General College and the University College.
Metropolitan State University caters primarily to working adults and nontraditional students. The General College, the most diverse college in the University, is an entryway for students who did poorly in high school. The University College offers continuing education for nontraditional students.
House higher-education committee chairwoman Rep. Peggy Leppik, R-Golden Valley, said she feels secure that individual colleges will retain their unique niches while uniting toward common goals.
Other potential collaborations would increase access to the University’s “resources and lifelong-education offerings through a selective group of career-oriented baccalaureate degrees offered in partnership with MnSCU,” according to the plan.
Leppik said the “communication, cooperation and collaboration” between the colleges would be enormously effective.
MnSCU officials had been in contact with the University for several months, Bruininks said. Representatives from both systems had four long meetings during that time.
But the groups have “clear benchmarks” to meet, Bruininks added. The joint group plans to meet in the next few months, officials said.
“We have to accomplish these things,” Bruininks said of their plans. “We can’t just talk about them.”
The University-MnSCU collaboration was explored after a suggestion by higher-education committee members in 1998.
Bruininks said the Legislature’s suggestion empowered the two groups to “roll up their sleeves” and work on the partnership.

Erin Ghere covers faculty and the state Legislature and welcomes comments at [email protected]