The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 9, 2014

MnSCU criticized for lack of contract information

$2 million contract was done quietly, surprise to many

ST. PAUL — Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is drawing criticism for failing to be more transparent about a $2 million consultant contract to help overhaul operations.

The contract with McKinsey & Co., comes as a surprise to students, faculty and legislators who were involved in the system's initiative to improve collaboration and spur innovation at its 31 campuses.

MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone didn't bring up the consultant contract when he updated the board of trustees about the initiative or when student leaders asked about its costs, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/1mIWp6X ).

"That seems like a detail that should have been made known to all stakeholders in this process," said Kari Cooper, who leads MnSCU's university student association.

Board approval for vendor contracts is required only for expenditures of $3 million or more. Rosenstone said MnSCU honored McKinsey's preference to stay away from the spotlight. He also said student leaders did not explicitly ask if the system had hired an outside consultant.

He consulted with the board's then-Chairman Clarence Hightower about the contract, Rosenstone added.

The head of the Minnesota House higher education committee, Rep. Gene Pelowski, and his Senate counterpart, Sen. Terri Bonoff, said they will push for changes to increase transparency and board oversight at MnSCU.

Bonoff said the contract shows "gaps in our law in terms of oversight and transparency."

For contracts larger than $1 million, Bonoff wants board approval, a heads-up to the Legislature and a consultation with the state Department of Administration.

"With a $2 million contract, if I were in the chancellor's shoes," Bonoff said. "I would want the board to be by my side."

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