State colleges want to advance in technology

by Chris Vetter

As the University sets its sights on becoming a world leader in digital technology, members of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system hopes its students can someday register online.
MnSCU representatives gave a presentation to the House Higher Education Finance Division Friday regarding the need for more money to improve its technology. The committee determines funding levels for state higher education in the House.
Fifty-four state universities and community and technical colleges across the state make up MnSCU, which serves about 145,000 students. The organization was formed only a year and a half ago, but MnSCU Chancellor Judith Eaton said it has led to more efficient higher education in Minnesota.
“We have streamlined higher education at the state level,” Eaton said. “We’ve made major strides in that direction.”
Eaton told legislators the system has not yet had time to reach its full potential and that it requires generous technological funding to achieve goals and performance measures for its programs.
“Be patient with us,” Eaton said to the committee. “Allow us the space for the difficulty of applying change.”
The focus of MnSCU’s presentation was the need for technological improvements. Technology is changing the way college classes will be taught, said Ray Cross, president of Northwest Technical College.
“For years, everyone had to come to us (to take classes),” Cross said. “Now, we can go to them.”
Cross and Gary Ellingson, also of Northwest Tech, showed the committee how labs which create circuits and electronics can be performed on the Internet rather than in the classroom. Ellingson said this is safer than classroom labs, where students can easily be electrocuted. “Students can (now) do this in a very safe environment at home,” Ellingson said.
However, the state college representatives lamented the fact that they lack adequate money to move forward. Unlike the University, MnSCU has not developed an Internet site for students to register for classes.
“We’re not quite ready for that overload of students yet,” Cross said.
Money for technological improvements would keep MnSCU’s schools up-to-date, Eaton said. “A substantial part of the budget request is for electronics and technology,” he said.
MnSCU is requesting $1.04 billion over the next two years from the Legislature this session, as opposed to the University’s $1.16 billion request. MnSCU’s proposal represents a 14 percent hike over the total it received last session.