Strategic Workgroups Urge Bold Strategies for Fundamental Changes to Operations of MnSCU

Posted: June 19, 2013

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

Draft recommendations advocate expansive coordination to meet challenges facing higher education

Three strategic workgroups charged with assessing the challenges facing higher education and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) today presented their draft recommendations for addressing the challenges to the MnSCU Board of Trustees. The proposed strategies call for a dramatic shift in the way the colleges and universities operate – from functioning as a group of autonomous institutions to a highly-coordinated network focused on achieving shared objectives necessary to ensure the state’s long-term economic prosperity. To attain this goal, the three workgroups – Education of the Future, Workforce of the Future, and System of the Future-recommend six broad strategic priorities with supporting actionable strategic directions.

The six strategic priorities are:

  1. Implement the first statewide academic and facilities plans. Expand academic and facilities planning from a strictly local undertaking to include both regional and statewide considerations to ensure that the right programs are offered in the right locations to more effectively meet the needs of students, industry, and communities.
  2. Create a mechanism for granting academic credit towards a degree based on prior learning and experience. Demonstrated mastery of those competencies required by a particular degree or program would be determined through testing and successful completion of skills assessments.
  3. Leverage the competitive advantage presented by the growing diversity of Minnesota’s population by partnering with communities traditionally underserved by higher education to dramatically accelerate the educational success of students from these communities.
  4. Create a comprehensive, easy to use, first-of-its-kind statewide e-education platform for delivery of accredited online courses, learning assessments, tutoring and advising, and library and career placement services.
  5. Implement a statewide continuing education and customized training plan. Establishing a shared portfolio of effective, replicable training solutions will ensure the statewide delivery of high-quality, innovative programs and services that meet the needs of adult learners, employers, and communities.
  6. Redesign the system’s financial and governance models to incentivize collaboration, student success and outcomes shown to advance Minnesota’s prosperity.

The workgroups are comprised of 46 students, faculty, staff, presidents and trustees. Scott Olson, president of Winona State University, Joe Opatz, president of Normandale Community College, and Ron Thomas, president of Dakota County Technical College, served as conveners.

“A tremendous amount of change in the world around us – technology, demographic, economic, workforce, cultural, and more – will dramatically impact higher education and requires that we think differently about the way we serve our students, our business and industry partners, and our communities across the state,” said Olson. “Our continued success in the crucial role we play in growing Minnesota’s economy and opening the doors of educational opportunity to all Minnesotans demands that we address these challenges in bold and innovative ways.”

The workgroups conducted their analysis over the course of the last seven months. When finalized, the recommendations are intended to guide the future strategies of MnSCU. The period of June 19, 2013 through October 14, 2013 will be devoted to broad discussion and consultation on the draft recommendations. The workgroups will finalize their recommendations and submit them to Chancellor Rosenstone for consideration at the October 2013 meeting of the MnSCU Board of Trustees.

“Collectively, we brought a wide array of perspectives to our discussions and a willingness to think in new ways about our future,” said Opatz. “We actively examined options, debated the pros and cons of alternative pathways and deliberated on what strategic priorities to recommend. We believe the six strategies and support actions we are presenting today have the most potential to move our system forward and meet the challenges we face.”

The draft recommendations are detailed in a white paper, Charting the Future of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.