History and Background

Return to the Strategic Plan

During the 1980s Minnesota legislators discussed various options for governing the state colleges and universities. In the 1991 session, Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe introduced legislation to merge the seven state universities, 34 technical colleges and 21 community colleges under one board. Senator Moe suggested that the merger of these institutions would increase institutional accountability, improve student transfer, coordinate program delivery and improve facility planning. The general expectation was that the merger would not save money in the short term, but that efficiency and effectiveness would be increased over the long term.

Members of the House of Representatives agreed with Senator Moe's general concerns but did not believe a merger of the systems was necessary to accomplish higher education reform. The House proposed a plan in lieu of the merger bill and passed its reform package. A subsequent House-Senate conference committee let the merger stand, but extended the original two-year transition period for the new system to four years, to become effective July 1, 1995.

In the ensuing years, the House passed a series of bills to undo the new system, but by 1994 it became clear that the merger would become a reality. Legislation was adopted to guide collective bargaining and to provide for the transfer of technical college employees from school districts to the state of Minnesota. The legislature also amended the revenue bonding authority for state university dormitories and residence halls. A final piece of legislation provided employees displaced by the merger with several early retirement options.

In 1993, the Minnesota Higher Education Board (now called the MnSCU Board of Trustees) appointed Dr. Jay Noren as interim chancellor to guide the transition to the 1995 merger. He succeeded Dr. Mary Rieder, who was appointed as acting interim chancellor in 1991.

In 1995, a drafting team representing all three higher education systems reviewed approximately 250 pages of state law governing colleges and universities and recommended which laws should be carried forward. More than 130 sections of law were repealed, and the balance of higher education statutes was reorganized.

The Board of Trustees commissioned a national search for a permanent chancellor in the spring of 1995. The successful candidate, Dr. Judith Eaton, was selected on June 12, 1995, and assumed the position on August 15, 1995. With concurrence from the board, she developed a new organizational framework for the MnSCU system office, reflecting four system priorities: policy development, governmental liaison and advocacy, strategic planning and budget.

The new proposal for system office staffing focused on the elimination or relocation of some functions and the reduction of staff from a force of 210 to 110. Further cost efficiencies have been achieved over the last two years by consolidating 28 community and technical college campuses (involving 22 institutions) into 11 comprehensive community and technical colleges.

Now in its second year of operation, MnSCU serves the state with 53 campuses in 46 communities, plus the Akita campus in Japan. The system stands as the largest provider of higher education in the state.