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New chancellor: Minnesota is 'counting on us'

Steven Rosenstone visits Mankato

New chancellor: Minnesota 'counting on' state universities.

By Tanner Kent, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 10/13/2011]

Don’t doubt for a moment that the new chancellor for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system has a vision for reform.

During Wednesday’s hour-long discussion with The Free Press editorial board, as well as the presidents of Minnesota State Mankato and South Central College, Steven Rosenstone spoke in clear terms about the changes he expects:

A well-defined central office, trimmed of superfluous positions and inefficiencies; more local power for institutions to be “entrepreneurial” and form partnerships; become the “partner of choice” for meeting the state’s work force needs; and form an “aggressive” approach to managing costs across all of MnSCU’s 31 member institutions.

Rosenstone vowed to have a plan for implementing these changes within 120 days of taking office with more details to come during November’s meeting of the MnSCU Board of Trustees.

“We cannot sit and schmooze about this,” Rosenstone said. “Minnesota is counting on us to start delivering now.”

But a rapidly evolving workforce coupled with declining funding levels and rising tuition costs have put MnSCU in a challenging position. Rosenstone shared two figures to underscore that:

  • 48 percent: the decline in state aid per student since 2000, when adjusted for inflation;
  • 85 percent: the number of jobs created by 2018 that will require some form of post-secondary education (of those, more than half will require a certificate or two-year degree).

In short, Rosenstone said, the demand is great and resources are scarce. His solution is to create a statewide map of Minnesota employment needs so that institutions can tailor their academic offerings and eliminate those that are not sustainable.

“If we don’t do this, there is no other (system) in Minnesota that can get the job done,” he said. “We have to grow our own.”

On the topic of whether MnSCU has too many institutions, Rosenstone admitted he’s been asked that question often, but “doesn’t know the answer yet.

On the topic of online education, Rosenstone proposed the idea of a standardized catalog of online courses offered through MnSCU, as opposed to each institution (which resulted in 27 different online psychology courses throughout MnSCU last year).

And on the topic of attracting students, Rosenstone said he wants to brand MnSCU institutions as destinations of choice for students who want an “extraordinary” education at a reasonable cost — other than promoting more superficial benefits.

For the complete Free Press story, see Thursday's print edition of The Free Press, or go to

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