MnSCU working to prepare a
highly skilled, competitive workforce
A Civic Caucus
Focus on Competitiveness
Interview February 14, 2014
Adams, Dave Broden (vice chair), Pat Davies, Paul Gilje (coordinator),
Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie, Dan Loritz (chair), Paul Ostrow, Steven
Rosenstone, Dana Schroeder. By phone: Janis Clay, Amir Gharbi, Tim
McDonald, Clarence Shallbetter.
To successfully compete
in the global economy, Minnesota must have the right number of people
in the right places, prepared with the right knowledge, capabilities
and skills, says Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU)
Chancellor Steven Rosenstone. He contends that if the state does not
have the world's best workforce, it will not be in a position to
compete for the best work in the world, putting at risk Minnesota's
ability both to retain businesses and industries in and attract new
Rosenstone says MnSCU works hard, in
partnership with the state's businesses and industries, to align its
programs with the state's current workforce needs. But he says the
system must work harder with its partners to get more forward-looking
information and visioning, so it can prepare students for future
workforce needs. He is concerned about the amount of developmental
education postsecondary students who are not college-ready require. He
believes K-12 schools must assess students earlier for
college-readiness and intervene earlier to assure that high school
graduates are college-ready.
Because of population shifts within
Minnesota, Rosenstone proposes starting to reduce space at some of
MnSCU's institutions, so the system can focus its resources where they
are most needed. At the same time, he says, MnSCU is dedicated to
continuing to provide access to students in sparsely populated parts
of the state in the most efficient ways possible.
He notes that 74 percent of all jobs in
Minnesota in 2020 will need postsecondary education, but only half of
those jobs will require a bachelor's degree or more. He contends that
everyone has a place in MnSCU's system to start on a postsecondary
path and that Minnesota cannot afford to leave anyone behind.
Named chancellor of Minnesota
State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) in February 2011, Steven
Rosenstone began his term in August 2011. As chancellor, Rosenstone is
responsible for leading the seven state universities and 24 community
and technical colleges in Minnesota that serve more than 430,000
students in 47 communities across the state. He has led the
development and implementation of MnSCU's new strategic framework to
enhance the role its colleges and universities play in growing
Minnesota's economy through commitments to:
Ensure access to an extraordinary education for all
Be the partner of choice to meet Minnesota's workforce and
community needs; and
Deliver to students, employers, communities and taxpayers the
highest value and most affordable higher education option.
Rosenstone was professor of political
science at Yale University until 1986, when he joined the University
of Michigan to serve as professor of political science and program
director in the Center for Political Studies. He came to the
University of Minnesota in 1996 to serve as dean of the College of
Liberal Arts. He was awarded the McKnight Presidential Leadership
Chair in 2004 and was promoted to vice president for scholarly and
cultural affairs in 2007.
He received his summa cum laude
bachelor's degree from Washington University in St. Louis and his
Ph.D.degree from the University of California, Berkeley.
Minnesota State Colleges and
Universities (MnSCU) is the state's largest higher education provider
and one of the nation's largest higher education systems. Fully 58
percent of the state's undergraduates study at a MnSCU college or
university, 88 percent of MnSCU students are state residents, and 80
percent of the system's graduates stay in Minnesota to pursue careers
or continue their education.
MnSCU comprises 24 community and technical
colleges and seven state universities, operating on 54 campuses in 47
communities and enrolling about 430,000 students every year. MnSCU
institutions serve 62,000 students of color and nearly 103,000
low-income students, both more than all other higher education
providers in Minnesota combined.
MnSCU is committed to providing an
opportunity for all Minnesotans to create a better future for
themselves, for their families, and for their communities by preparing
graduates who will enable Minnesota to successfully compete in the
global economy. To compete, Minnesota must have the right number of
people in the right places, prepared with the right knowledge,
capabilities and skills. MnSCU's strategies to do that include: (1)
Aligning higher education with the future workforce needs of
Minnesota; (2) Focusing on the capabilities of its graduates; (3)
Ensuring there is a pipeline of high school graduates who are
college-ready and heading towards programs that will lead to careers
enabling Minnesota to successfully compete; (4) Ensuring access and
affordability; and (5) Redesigning MnSCU to improve the quality of its
graduates, increase the effectiveness and efficiency of its
operations, and keep tuition affordable.
In November 2013, the MnSCU Board of
Trustees adopted recommendations for that redesign from the report
Prior to his Civic Caucus
interview, Rosenstone was asked to give his insights into several
issues: how to deal with people entering or about to enter the
workforce who are not adequately prepared for available jobs, how to
address the skills gap, how to align MnSCU's postsecondary graduates
with what the state's workforce needs and how MnSCU can add to
Minnesota's economic competitiveness.
At the beginning of the
discussion, Steven Rosenstone took note of the sad deaths in the past
week of two great contributors to education, civic life and business
in Minnesota, David Lilly and Dale Olseth.
Minnesota is a set of regional economies.
"We either figure out how those regional economies thrive or Minnesota
doesn't thrive," said Steven Rosenstone. "With colleges and
universities in 47 communities around the state, we have built the
partnerships needed to ensure the economic success of regional
economies throughout our state."
"We must build relationships that are the
right partnerships for each of the industries in the state," he
continued. "Minnesota's economy is less tied to our natural resources
than it was a century ago. Many businesses can move somewhere else. If
Minnesota does not have the world's best workforce, it will not be in
a position to compete for the best work in the world. That will put at
risk our economic growth and ability to attract high-paying jobs. It
will put at risk our ability both to retain businesses and industries
in Minnesota and attract new ones."
MnSCU is building the right partnerships,
core to Minnesota's economic vitality. "We're working in
partnership with all the players that need to be at the table and we
are doing so in new and more powerful ways," Rosenstone said.
MnSCU must better align its programs with
Minnesota's future workforce needs. Rosenstone said current
efforts often rely on data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics
that are between a year and 18 months old. "If we align our programs
to those data and if students graduate from the program two years
later, we're skating where the puck was three years ago," he said.
"Not good enough. We've got to be skating to where the puck will
"That requires thinking in new ways and
working with business and industry to be thinking out a bit not just
about technical skills, but about the more foundational skills
(creativity, critical thinking, communication, analytical capacity)
that will be needed for the jobs of tomorrow," he continued. "We're
trying to cut out some of the time lags between what we're hearing and
our ability to turn out the right kind of graduates with the right
kind of capabilities."
MnSCU develops leadership within its system.
Rosenstone said that MnSCU has "great intentionality" about
developing its future leaders and has several leadership development
programs for its faculty and staff. "We are doubling down on that," he
said, noting that in higher education, a 50 percent turnover in
leadership is expected over the next eight to 10 years. Fully 84
percent of college and university presidents are anticipated to retire
by 2016. "There's going to be a feeding frenzy for talent," he said.
"We need to develop our own talent or we're not going to get the job
MnSCU faculty and administrators make
commitments to the communities where they are located. "MnSCU
faculty members understand that our colleges and universities were
built to serve students, communities and our partners," Rosenstone
said. "Students are served and phone calls from community partners get
returned, because people understand that's why we're here."
He said almost every program has an advisory
committee comprised of business and community leaders who meet
regularly with college and university faculty and staff. "Presidents,
deans and leaders of customized training programs are deeply embedded
in their communities," he said. "That's part of what it means to be a
leader in our system. We hire the right people: people committed to
serving students and their communities. They succeed as leaders when
our students and community partners succeed."
MnSCU connects with business and industry.
An interviewer commented that the connection between business and
industry and MnSCU is "phenomenal," but pointed out that the system is
connecting with today's businesses, when the businesses it has to plan
for haven't been created yet. He asked how MnSCU brings in visioning
for the future.
Rosenstone replied that one of the lessons
from the Itasca Project Task Force is that "we can't be in sync with
what we need to do to prepare our graduates, unless business and
industry start to think out more than six months." He said the health
industry has probably done a better job thinking about those issues
than other sectors. "Part of it has to be all of us being more
forward-looking," he said. "We need to know how to identify new
sectors and we are just beginning to figure that out."
Business wants the full package of liberal
arts foundational education, along with technical skills. An
interviewer asked about the future of liberal arts education.
Rosenstone said, "This is not either-or. The foundational skills
imparted by a liberal arts education are a key part of the future. We
hear loud and clear that business wants the full package. They want
all the capabilities that come from a liberal arts education:
creativity, innovation, and the ability to think in new ways, to do
research, to make generalizations, to work across cultural and
geographic boundaries. They want all that, but they also want a set of
technical skills. Our goal is to turn out the full package: to have
both the more foundational skills and the more technical skills in
each of our graduates."
He said part of the challenge is to ensure
that there is a better understanding back in the high schools about
the careers of the future and the capabilities needed to be prepared
for those careers.
The latest data show that 74 percent of all
jobs in Minnesota in 2020 will need postseconday education
"There's no state in the nation that needs a better educated workforce
than Minnesota," he said. But only half of jobs in 2020 will require a
bachelor's degree or more. "We have careers in Minnesota where after
18 months of technical training, you start at $50,000 or $60,000, with
full benefits," he said. "We need to do a better job of laying out the
portfolio of options and a better job of aligning students' passions
and skills to the careers of the future."
K-12 and postsecondary education both need
better information to deliver the workforce Minnesota needs to compete
globally. "We must make some changes to what it means for our
colleges and universities to deliver the world's best workforce,"
Rosenstone said. "It means moving students through faster and better.
It means raising the bar and asking graduates to demonstrate what they
have accomplished. We have to move forward on certifying the
capabilities of our graduates. It means that students should not have
to take the same course twice. If they can demonstrate they have
mastered the material, they should be able to get the credit and move
"There's lots of work for everybody to do,"
he said. "The secret sauce is people working together in new ways."
There is no other state in the nation that
has made the changes Minnesota has in creating an alignment between
secondary and postsecondary education. "There is no other higher
education system in the nation that has taken on the set of changes
talked about in the
Charting the Future
report, changes we're going to deliver on," Rosenstone said. "We're
aggressively ahead of where many states are in putting the pieces
together that need to be put together. Now it's just a matter of
keeping our focus and driving the changes we need to make."
He said each element of the plan enacted by
the 2013 Legislature to better align K-12 and postsecondary education
is designed to address the challenges education leaders were
observing. "For example," he said, "we found that the assessments we
were using in high school didn't match up with college readiness.
Minnesota is now going to have a set of measures starting in eighth
grade that will be normed to college readiness. If students are not on
track to be college-ready, we want targeted interventions while
students are in high school so everyone will be on track for
There are deeper issues, like graduation
rates and the achievement gap, that can't be solved starting in ninth
grade, he said. "There are also issues in making sure we've got the
right capacities and the right strategies in the classroom to deliver
He said students who are college-ready
should have more flexible pathways for earning early college credits.
Students need more information about programs like the state's
Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program, through which 10th-,
11th- and 12th-graders can earn college and high
school credits by taking free college courses at public or private
postsecondary institutions in Minnesota.
He noted that two years ago, the Legislature
opened the PSEO program, which had previously been limited to just 11th-
and 12th-grade students, to 10th-graders, who
can enroll only in postsecondary career and technical education
courses. He said this change would help improve the linkage between
high school and technical colleges for students who aren't seeking
"Every student needs a plan for what
postsecondary path makes sense for them and how that will help prepare
them for the hot careers of the future," he said.
Developmental education for students who are
not ready for college needs to be moved back to the K-12 system.
An interviewer asked what MnSCU is doing about kids who are graduating
from high school reading at the second-grade level. "What we're doing
now is not what we should be doing," Rosenstone replied. "What we're
doing now with students coming to our colleges who are not
college-ready is putting them into a sequence of courses to get them
to college-level reading, writing and math. Too many students get
discouraged or tap out their federal financial aid before they
actually get to the starting gate."
Rosenstone said faculty and staff are
developing new models for developmental education, such as
mainstreaming students into regular college classes, while still
providing the academic support necessary for their success. "Our work
with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and Commissioner
Brenda Cassellius is to get it right the first time: to have fewer
students leaving high school unprepared for postsecondary education,
to diagnose earlier whether they're on track to be college-ready and
to intervene long before they get to our colleges and universities,"
he said. "The hope is that over the next four or five years, we'll
have more students leaving high school who are ready for college
classes, because we've diagnosed it and intervened earlier."
MnSCU has strong relationships with the
Governor, with the Legislature, with DEED and with MDE.
"We're working more closely with the
Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and with MDE
than ever before," Rosenstone said. "We have a governor who is deeply
committed to solving this puzzle and making investments to help us
prepare the world's best workforce. I think there's great legislative
leadership on these issues. We have legislators who believe we must
create the world's best workforce. The state has made great
investments to try to move this forward."
"We also need to be doing some things
differently within our colleges and universities," he continued. "I've
seen the Legislature as a great partner in helping us get this done.
Everybody has a stake in it. This is not a left/right issue or a GOP/DFL
issue. It is a Minnesota issue."
For-profit colleges in Minnesota are roughly
four to five times the cost of MnSCU colleges and universities.
Rosenstone said the for-profits' completion rates are lower and their
placement rates are lower. "As the U.S. Senate reported several years
ago, many for-profits spend more on marketing and recruitment per
student than they do on instruction per student," he said. "We won't
go there." He said at MnSCU colleges and universities, students pay a
fraction of the price charged by the for-profits; many graduate with
no debt; and those who do have debt, have a fraction of the debt that
students at for-profit colleges have. "This being said, we remain
vigilant in controlling costs, minimizing tuition increases, raising
scholarship dollars, and holding the line on tuition and debt," he
Charting the Future
plan calls for substantially more collaboration and cooperation across
MnSCU institutions. Rosenstone said greater collaboration
among colleges and universities will make students' experiences more
seamless and will result in sharing successes, so that the very best
that faculty and staff do at any of its institutions can be available
across the state. We need to create better incentives to reward
collaboration, he said.
MnSCU and MDE are trying to broaden the
notion of what the next step is for high school graduates.
Students who are interested in robotics and computers "have no idea
what a modern manufacturing firm looks like," he said. "Educators and
industry must communicate to students that, if that's what their
interests are, there are a whole range of other opportunities
available for them in addition to a B.S. in engineering."
An interviewer observed that using
"postsecondary" instead of "college" might open people's thinking to
options other than four-year degrees. He also suggested using former
Governor Rudy Perpich's term of "the brainpower state" rather than
just talking about "the world's best workforce."
MnSCU must balance the population shifts
that have occured within Minnesota with its commitment to serve
communities across the state.
An interviewer called drawing
up MnSCU's budget "an impossible problem." With money tight, he asked
whether the MnSCU system should be left as it is in terms of locations
or whether there are too many institutions.
Rosenstone replied that here have been
population shifts in Minnesota since the MnSCU institutions were
built. But, he said, people in the metro area need to understand the
power of geography. For example, there are four colleges on the Iron
Range covering 13,000 square miles that are led by one president. It's
an hour-and-a-half drive between these colleges. "We have no plans to
back off on our commitment to providing access to higher education to
these communities," he said.
MnSCU students' average age is 26. Usually
they have a job or two and often a family. "We have to balance how to
meet the challenge of geography and our commitment to meet the
regional needs of our state with the costs of doing so," he said.
MnSCU's capital budget proposes a net
reduction in the square footage of its system. The proposal calls
for a net reduction of 250,000 square feet. "We need to eliminate
obsolete facilities that no longer serve students, yet continue to
drive costs, affect affordability, and limit our ability to target
resources where they are needed most," Rosenstone said. "If we are
committed to affordability, we have to be willing to make some tough
decisions to ensure that we are using scarce resources as efficiently
and effectively as possible."
An interviewer commented that 250,000 square
feet would equal about one-third of Hamline University's space on its
St. Paul campus. Rosenstone said if MnSCU can right-size its
facilities, over time it will help reduce costs and advance
MnSCU must also look at where new technology
will work for offering classes and where it won't. "Online won't
work in many of our technical programs," Rosenstone said. "Many of our
programs require space and place." He went on to say that "the
evidence is also compelling that those who struggle academically are
least successful in an online environment. We have to find the right
balance of technology and in-place education."
About 20 percent of all of MnSCU's course
delivery is online. "We've made huge changes in the last four or five
years in that direction," he said. "Getting the right mix of online
and face-to-face education is a challenge going forward in each of our
programs." He said MnSCU is looking at how it can meet its
responsibility to deliver an extraordinary education throughout the
state in the most effective and efficient way.
Developing the best teaching in Minnesota
will require tackling several issues. An interviewer asked what
kind of strategy is necessary to ensure we can become the brainpower
state by producing the best teaching. Rosenstone said, "There are two
parts to the puzzle: one is the kinds of people who go into the
teaching profession and the other is how we develop them and their
capacity to be great teachers. New models by which we develop teachers
are key; making sure we get the best and the brightest to go into
teaching is also key. Another part of it is the autonomy and
opportunities teachers have in their schools to do the best they're
capable of doing."
MnSCU invests in development of its faculty,
but needs to do more. An interviewer asked what MnSCU is doing to
assure it is developing its own teachers and educators. "We invest a
lot in the development of our faculty," Rosenstone said, "and wish we
had the resources to do more."
"I'm often asked, 'Can we
really do this? Can we pull this off?'" Rosenstone said in conclusion.
"We have to; we don't have an alternative. The secret to the economic
vitality of communities across our state is our people. We either get
this one right or we're in deep trouble." He said that's why MnSCU
partners with business, with government agencies, with civic
organizations and with the K-12 education system. "This is an
imperative. If we screw this up, we're in deep trouble as a state.
"To get us there, we must lead not by doing
a little better the same things that everybody else in doing," he
continued. "We must lead by creating the innovative models that enable
us to do much better things. Our colleges and universities are a place
of hope and opportunity for all Minnesotans to create a better future
for themselves, for their families and for their communities. Everyone
has a place in our system to start on a postsecondary path. Minnesota
needs all of those students to be successful. Minnesota cannot afford
to leave anyone behind."
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. The Interview Group
includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and
business. Click here
to see a short personal background of each.
S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill
Frenzel, Paul Gilje (coordinator), Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted
Kolderie, Dan Loritz (chair),
Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne
Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman