By Tanner Kent
Free Press Staff Writer
Don’t doubt for a moment that the new chancellor for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system has a vision for reform.
During Wednesday’s hour-long discussion with The Free Press editorial board, as well as the presidents of Minnesota State University and South Central College, Steven Rosenstone spoke in clear terms about the changes he expects:
A well-defined central office, trimmed of superfluous positions and inefficiencies; more local power for institutions to be “entrepreneurial” and form partnerships; become the “partner of choice” for meeting the state’s work force needs; and form an “aggressive” approach to managing costs across all of MnSCU’s 31 member institutions.
Rosenstone vowed to have a plan for implementing these changes within 120 days of taking office with more details to come during November’s meeting of the MnSCU Board of Trustees.
“We cannot sit and schmooze about this,” Rosenstone said, summarizing the urgency of his meetings so far with campus presidents since taking office Aug. 1. “Minnesota is counting on us to start delivering now.”
But a rapidly evolving workforce coupled with declining funding levels and rising tuition costs have put MnSCU in a challenging position. Rosenstone shared two figures that underscore just how challenging:
n 48 percent: the decline in state aid per student since 2000, when adjusted for inflation;
n 85 percent: the number of jobs created by 2018 that will require some form of post-secondary education (of those, more than half will require a certificate or two-year degree).
In short, Rosenstone said, the demand is great and resources are scarce. His solution is to create a statewide map of Minnesota employment needs so that institutions can tailor their academic offerings and eliminate those that are not sustainable.
Unlike the University of Minnesota, a majority of MnSCU graduates stay in Minnesota, Rosenstone said. Therefore, it’s incumbent upon MnSCU institutions to supply the workforce for business and industry.
“If we don’t do this, there is no other (system) in Minnesota that can get the job done,” he said. “We have to grow our own.”
On the topic of whether MnSCU has too many institutions, Rosenstone admitted he’s been asked that question often, but “doesn’t know the answer yet. ... The starting point is mapping out our (work force) needs.”
On the topic of online education, Rosenstone proposed the idea of a standardized catalog of online courses offered through MnSCU, as opposed to each institution (which resulted in 27 different online psychology courses throughout MnSCU last year).
And on the topic of attracting students, Rosenstone said he wants to brand MnSCU institutions as destinations of choice for students who want an “extraordinary” education at a reasonable cost — other than promoting more superficial benefits.
“I want to push hard on our quality,” he said. “I want (MnSCU institutions) to be places students come because the programs are so damn good.”
Rosenstone was professor of political science at Yale University until 1986 when he joined the University of Michigan to serve as professor of political science and program director in the Center for Political Studies. He was recruited to the University of Minnesota in 1996 to serve as dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
He was awarded the McKnight Presidential Leadership Chair in 2004 and was promoted to vice president for Scholarly and Cultural Affairs in 2007.