House approves bill to assist Rochester campus

It will allow the school to offer baccalaureate and graduate programs.

by Jim Hammerand

The state House approved $11.3 million this week for the University’s Rochester campus to expand its curriculum and increase enrollment.

Representatives passed St. Cloud Republican Jim Knoblach’s bill by a vote of 103 to 29 on Monday, sending it to the Senate. Upon passage, the bill will help the Rochester campus to offer baccalaureate and graduate programs in engineering technology, health sciences and business.

Rochester Provost David Carl said these programs will allow the campus to triple enrollment to 1,400 and will not result in the shelving of other departments.

“Nothing will go away,” Carl said.

The Governor’s Rochester Higher Education Development Committee reported in January that the Rochester campus is uniquely situated to partner with the Mayo Clinic and IBM to foster innovation and should take advantage of the opportunity before losing “significant potential growth.”

The committee found the University’s Rochester campus involvement with the medical technology sector to be significant to the state’s “participation in the ‘knowledge economy’ – the central driver of economic growth, quality of life gains and economic success.”

Carl said the campus will move to a new building in downtown Rochester near the Mayo Clinic to benefit students pursuing the new programs, and that the campus’ proximity to its partners will be a boon for innovation.

“There aren’t many places in the world where you’re going to find three powerhouses together like that. When we bring these three together Ö we’ll be able to promote the entire state of Minnesota,” Carl said.

The Rochester expansion funding was a small part of the bill, which also included funding for other state programs, boxing regulation and abortion regulation.

Rep. Dan Dorman, R-Albert Lea, said his vote against the bill was not against the Rochester expansion or any other single item, but because he wanted better funding for items in the bill.

“We’re trying to out-conservative the governor, and I think that’s goofy. In a big omnibus bill like that, you can always find things that you like and dislike Ö but it’s the overall (budgetary) size,” Dorman said.