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The next session and higher education

December 30, 2012
By Ron Wood , Marshall Independent

As we approach the new year we all wonder, "What will our national and state governments bring to us in 2013?" We hope for compromise and a middle ground at the national level from the Executive Branch and a split Congress. If we continue the same old partisan posturing it might not matter on the state level as we will be scrambling to fill money holes in the private and public sectors.

While it is dangerous to assume they will get the job done I am hopeful that a balanced approach of spending cuts and tax revenue increase policies saves the day. With that what will the new Minnesota legislature and the governor do given a one party control across the board for the first time in two decades?

The Minnesota State College and University (MnSCU) system is not asking the legislature and governor to replenish the money lost over the last decade but rather to fund our current base allocation and fund a series of objectives we believe will assist the state to begin a 21st century Minnesota Miracle. The MnSCU Strategic Framework is based around three premises:

Ensure Access to an Extraordinary Education for All Minnesotans.

Be the Partner of Choice to Meet Minnesota's Workforce and Community Needs.

Deliver the Highest Value/Most Affordable Option by Designing the MnSCU of the Future.

For the next biennium we will work to advance the competitiveness of Minnesota's workforce, increase access and affordability, and accelerate the completion rates of students.

The MnSCU budget request puts forth bold proposals that are not new but require new partnerships to be forged between the private and public sector, secondary and post-secondary education, and donors and institutions. Southwest Minnesota State University is excited about the future if we are successful in securing the biennial budget request.

One area in which SMSU has not been able to keep pace has been in purchasing new equipment. Within the new MnSCU budget SMSU would receive $329,000 in equipment funds if we are able to secure a 1:1 match. This means we could purchase $758,000 of equipment to train a 21st century workforce. If the new budget were approved we would receive $332,000 to be matched by private sector funds to sponsor paid field experiences for students. This would allow us to dramatically increase the 300+ internships and field experiences our current student population annually undertakes. The system is requesting $10 million targeted for meeting critical needs in high demand, high growth professions. This would help SMSU to grow areas such as nursing, agriculture, food science, exercise science and education. New emphasis is being placed on current students to improve our retention rate and accelerate degree completion. The system request would allow SMSU to implement a holistic plan to work with students to insure their success.

As part of the plan being proposed, the MnSCU system is working with the Department of Education to facilitate a cost effective method for both secondary and post-secondary education to create pathways for high school students into college through PSEO and concurrent enrollment. While SMSU is a leader in this arena in the state, we recognize that the efforts at the state level will enhance our efforts.

Finally we must work to make sure that the learning experience remains affordable. We have committed to distributing more than $1.2 million in competitive and non-competitive scholarships to our students. The partnership between the SMSU Foundation and the University strongly supports the need to insure no one is denied access because of money.

Why is a viable, growing Southwest Minnesota State University so important to the region? First, a strong institution puts money into the regional economy through salaries and non-salary expenditures. Second, a growing university creates the additional influx of money through student expenditures. Finally, a quality institution creates trained graduates to stay and work within the region. We have a strong relationship with the regional community and will work hard to make all of this happen in the next biennium!



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