Reorganizing MnSCU: Cost savings, but at what price?


Shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday break, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities administrators unveiled a long-awaited reorganization plan called Charting the Future.

Initial reactions to the stated objectives of the plan have been generally positive, but cautiously mixed. As the old feast meal expression goes, the proof is in the pudding.

That course doesn’t get served until January. Until then, objectives and lofty stated goals are all we’ve got to look at.

One of the early criticisms of the plan is that a reorganized MnSCU system will be heavy on business-focused curricula at the expense of humanities.

Also, as Minnesota sees a surge in its minority population, the importance of making higher education accessible to those already facing a tremendous education gap in this state becomes a priority. This is a commendable goal of the plan.

But while Charting the Future emphasizes affordability, it lacks a clear outline for reaching the underserved population in Minnesota.

Charting the Future’s efforts toward making higher education more affordable for students builds from post-secondary enrollment option courses (PSEO), which already exists for high school students who are looking to gain free college credits. While there is presently a tuition freeze holding back the trend of rising costs in higher education, this will come to an end after Spring 2015.

The current ratio of state appropriations compared to student tuition costs is now the greatest burden for students in recent MnSCU experience: presently 60 percent student dependent and 40 percent state support.

Projected cost savings contained in the draft of the report include opportunities for students to minimize unnecessary expenses and classes. The ability to successfully transfer without losing credits, and the ability to test out of courses where the student has prior knowledge will save students money that would otherwise be spend on redundant courses.

MnSCU institutions should also receive cost savings from the plan. By removing duplicate courses, offering more online courses, and minimizing administrative expenses, MnSCU should save costs that will hopefully trickle down to students.

The implementation will likely take three to four years, according to Chancellor Stephen Rosenstone. He wants to see the colleges and universities within MnSCU “playing as a team.”

That needs to start now while the pudding is still being baked. Student and faculty involvement has been minimal in devising the proposed changes. Campus-rooted input is needed; the first independent review of the plan shouldn’t come from collegiate accrediting agencies.