The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

October 4, 2013

Union off base on MnSCU plan

Why it matters: Turf battles and fiery rhetoric won't help faculty union adapt to inevitable change at MnSCU.

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The draft report correctly states: “Our educational delivery model is costly and does not respond quickly to population changes, resulting in a mismatch between our capacity and demand for higher education.”

It points to startling demographics that suggest a problem, though one outstate Minnesotans interested in protecting their own MnSCU turf will not find comforting.

The Twin Cities will offer some 192,000 jobs in the next 10 years, but MnSCU student headcounts in the Twin Cities are only about 12,000. In outstate Minnesota, job growth and replacement will be around 154,000 in the next 10 years compared to university student headcount in outstate of about 72,000.

The report points out that the majority of jobs will be created in the Twin Cities, while the majority of the MnSCU capacity is in outstate.

The draft report also makes more sea-change suggestions that will be threatening to union and political constituencies, but are nonetheless based on stark realities and market needs.

To wit: “In the years ahead, our colleges and universities will need to seek opportunities for new institutional arrangements through additional mergers, regionalized colleges/universities, co-location or other joint administrative and educational arrangements. They will need to consider the replacement of some full-service campuses with a suite of flexible delivery options.”

The union also says the changes would not be good for students and that it focuses too much on job-training programs that would crowd out resources to academic programs.

It’s a criticism that has been around for decades, but one that is falling out of relevancy every year. MnSCU students and their parents are right to have a reasonable assumption that getting a degree from MnSCU should help graduates get jobs and establish careers.

The MnSCU Charting the Future draft report offers a serious analysis of needed changes that may be hard-medicine to take for political constituencies but also will be good for students, the business community and taxpayers.

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