by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees on Thursday, Nov. 20, adopted a set of recommendations aimed at fostering student success, better use of technology and more collaboration among the system’s 54 campuses.
“We cannot walk away from our responsibility to think critically about the future,” MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone said prior to trustees adopting the recommendations.
Rosenstone – who was installed as chancellor in October 2011 and has spoken forcefully about higher education reform – last fall instructed three workgroups, composed of MnSCU officials and students, to explore ways the system could better contribute to the state’s prosperity. MnSCU officials heralded the perceived doggedness and thoroughness of the process – 5,400 faculty and students participating in 108 feedback sessions across the state, according to MnSCU.
But “Charting the Future” is controversial.
The Inter Faculty Organization, representing 4,000 faculty at seven Minnesota state universities, earlier this year called draft recommendations a move toward “Soviet-style management,” according to media reports.
St. Cloud State University President Earl Potter, Normandale Community College President Joe Opatz and other MnSCU officials, appealing to the trustees, argued the purpose of the initiative was not to wrestle control away.
“It’s a tough idea to put your arms around,” Potter said of grasping the essence of Charting the Future.
“The last draft probably had too many answers in it,” he said.
Still, some of his peers remain nervous, Potter believes. Trustees, too, described the recommendations as tempered.
“This is not a power grab for centralization,” Trustee Margaret Anderson Kelliher said.
But in a press release, the Inter Faculty Organization, while saying it embraces the values and commitment inherent in Charting the Future, states the report seems to pit local autonomy and decentralization against collaboration and collective power. Further, the report “implicitly” endorses a one-size-fits-all model, the IFO contends.
Yet it also portrays the “core” of Charting the Future as solid.
The six recommendations are:
•Dramatically increase the success of all learners, especially those in diverse populations.
•Develop collaborative academic planning that advances affectability, transferability and access.
•Certify student competencies and accelerate degree completion through credit for prior learning and competency-based credit and degrees.
•Expand the use of technology to deliver high-quality online courses as well as technology-enhanced instruction, student services and individualized learning and advising.
•Deliver comprehensive workplace solutions to build employee skills and solve real-world problems for communities and businesses across the state.
•Redesign financial and administrative models to reward collaboration, drive efficiencies and strengthen access to an extraordinary education for all Minnesotans.
Rosenstone is expected to talk about implementing the recommendations when appearing before the trustees in January.
A number of trustees voiced their approval of the report. One spoke of Charting the Future as giving the permission to change. Vice Chair Thomas Renier called the report an “exceptional piece of work.”
Rosenstone stressed it was part of an ongoing process.
“The work is beginning — this is not the conclusion,” he said.
Higher education cannot continue the “fantasy” that higher education funding will remain the same, and educators cannot ignore options, he said.
Tim Budig is at email@example.com.