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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Larry Pogemiller, commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education
June 5, 2015

Eliminate inequities in postsecondary education or risk stifling Minnesota's economy

Overview

The fundamental issue for Minnesota is completion of postsecondary education and attainment of certificates and degrees by students of color, asserts Larry Pogemiller, commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE). We must overcome the inequities in postsecondary education or we'll stifle the economy, he says, because we'll just run out of people to do the work. He calls it a moral and economic imperative.

Minnesota students of color, Pogemiller points out, are much less likely to complete high school on time and to complete postsecondary education than white students. And students of color, who now make up 24 percent of Minnesota graduates, are more likely to attend two-year colleges part-time than white students, meaning they are less likely to complete a certificate or degree program. These disparities, he says,

constitute "a scandal" and are creating a tiered system that is a major problem for our society in the long-term.

And students attending two-year colleges are much more likely to be enrolled in developmental (i.e., remedial) postsecondary courses than those attending four-year colleges, he says. Rates of enrollment in developmental courses-a measure of lack of readiness for college-differ widely by racial/ethnic group. The greatest difference is between white high school graduates, with 24 percent enrolling in developmental courses, versus black or African American graduates with 55 percent.

Pogemiller believes strongly that a critical step toward addressing these postsecondary inequities is to focus scarce resources on those most in need through targeted financial aid. He states that using targeted financial aid rather than free college or low tuition for everyone is a "no-brainer" policy issue. Targeted financial aid allows students to get to their best-fit institutions and increases their odds of success, he says.

We must start at the pre-K level in order to solve the postsecondary problem, because inequities snowball, he says, even at the lowest grade levels. He believes we don't intervene effectively enough through the early years for a lot of students who are lagging behind in basic skills. Those students start to believe they can't succeed.

For the complete interview summary see: link to interview

Response Summary: Readers rated these statements about the topic and about points discussed during the meeting, on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

1. Topic is of value. The interview summarized today provides valuable information or insight.

2. Further study warranted. It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.

3. Minority population to surge. A dramatic increase in Minnesota's minority population, in absolute numbers and relative proportions, is inevitable.

4. Minorities must be ready to lead. It is essential for Minnesota's prosperity that people of color and other minorities play significant roles in the state's leadership in business, government, education and other fields.

5. Elite schools must enroll more minorities. Because a large proportion of state leaders are graduates of higher ranked public and private colleges and universities, those institutions must enroll more minorities than in the past to increase minority leadership.

6. Help more attain elite schools. Lower-income students will find community colleges affordable, but those with high potential for future leadership must be provided with opportunities at the more highly respected schools.

7. Target funding via need-based grants. That means more state funding must be targeted in the form of need-based grants for low-income students at such schools rather than used to hold down tuition for everyone.

8. Minority education key to having needed workforce. Without more targeted support of minority education and leadership development, the state is likely not to have enough qualified people to do the work of a healthy, growing economy.

9. Improved education at all levels required. Developing the a qualified work force as well as strong leadership will require a continued, strong commitment to improvement in education from pre-K onward.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Topic is of value.

9%

0%

27%

55%

9%

11

2. Further study warranted.

9%

9%

18%

55%

9%

11

3. Minority population to surge.

0%

0%

9%

36%

55%

11

4. Minorities must be ready to lead.

0%

0%

0%

27%

73%

11

5. Elite schools must enroll more minorities.

9%

0%

36%

9%

45%

11

6. Help more attain elite schools.

9%

0%

45%

18%

27%

11

7. Target funding via need-based grants.

9%

27%

18%

36%

9%

11

8. Minority education key to having needed workforce.

9%

18%

9%

45%

18%

11

9. Improved education at all levels required.

9%

9%

0%

9%

73%

11


Individual Responses:

Dale Fairbanks (5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (5) (5) (7.5) (2.5) (10)
9. Improved education at all levels required. In an effort to ensure that we have qualified individuals to attend higher stature schools, I think we need to insure that we do not dumb down our k-12 requirements.

Scott Halstead (7.5) (2.5) (10) (10) (10) (5) (2.5) (5) (10)
We need to utilize education time more effectively. Longer days in the classroom. More classroom days per year. Utilize summer school to target those that are likely to need remediation.

Ray Ayotte (7.5) (5) (7.5) (10) (5) (5) (5) (7.5) (7.5)

Anonymous (0) (0) (10) (10) (10) (10) (0) (0) (0)
7. Target funding via need-based grants. It should be free.

Anonymous (7.5) (7.5) (10) (10) (10) (5) (5) (7.5) (10)

Anonymous (5) (5) (10) (10) (0) (0) (2.5) (7.5) (10)

6. Help more attain elite schools. Leaders do not need to come from 'highly respected schools'

7. Target funding via need-based grants. All low-income students or just minority low income students? This question is not clear.

Mike McGee (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)
There's been quite a lot of discussion regarding the prospect of free college. However, there seems to be a disconnect with respect to what it means to offer free college, have someone take advantage of this, and then actually succeed or even graduate. MCTC has had, in effect, "free college" for 6 years now. It's called the Power of You program and includes St. Paul College and Metropolitan State U as well. Recently, for those who complete an associate’s degree in 3 years or fewer at MCTC, a free ride to Augsburg college for a coveted private college bachelor's degree is an option. What some want us to believe, and that may include Mr. Pogemiller, is that "free" translates to successful. There are plenty of supports available to those who are financially disadvantaged to attend college. However, if they are not prepared, free means nothing. In fact, "free" could mean a drop in success averages because many of those who have no skin in the game tend to not work as hard because failing a class has no financial consequences. Folks like Mr. Pogemiller need to address this disconnect and grasp the fact that there is no connection between free college and successful completion. It is much, much more complicated than creating giveaway college courses.

Dennis Carlson (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)
Private efforts are important as well. One of the best is Wallin Education Partners. Their student scholarships are $16,000 plus an advisor throughout their college experience. Their focus is on minority students and other students in financial need.

I would also like to know what Larry Pogemiller is going to do next. He is a great Minnesota resource and we need to keep him in the game after his OHE stint with Gov. Dayton is over.

Laura Urban (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)
I found today’s interview with Larry Pogemiller interesting and confusing. I think he makes many good points in his interview but the last paragraph of the interview gives the impression that there is something wrong with students of color attending 2-year colleges, which are part of MNSCU. For many students, whether they are students of color or not, the two yr. colleges provide opportunities for graduates to enter into the workforce at very good salaries, have strong skill sets, and the opportunity to continue on with their education at a 4 yr. school if that is their goal. In addition, many of the two-year colleges in the Metro area are located in areas with easy physical access through public transportation and meet the needs of many types of students who are place bound.

I am not sure who is responsible for wording the questions at the end of the interview, but I have a concern with how Question #6 is worded: " Lower-income students will find community colleges affordable, but those with high potential for future leadership must be provided with opportunities at the more highly respected schools." Is this question implying that graduates of community colleges cannot provide future leadership and that high potential leaders only come from highly respected schools? There are many good examples out there of community college graduates who are CEOs and great leaders. Case in point – Al Sholts, who you interviewed along with me for your last publication is a graduate of a two yr. college and is considered a leader in his field and within the community. Another case in point is Mona Dohman, Commissioner for Public Safety, is a graduate of ATCC and is a respected leader in law enforcement. Does this question mean that 2-year schools are not highly respected and do not produce leaders? Thank you for the good work you do and for listening to me.

Chuck Lutz (8) (6) (10) (9) (9) (10) (9) (8) (10)

Wayne Jennings (9) (9) (8) (10) (10) (8) (8) (10) (10)
I'm concerned with a number of students needing remedial work in college. I would place greater responsibility on the K-12 system to assure graduates possess the skills and knowledge for their future. That will take a reworking of the secondary educational curriculum. Too many students are disengaged in their high school courses because they don't see relevance. A better curriculum does not mean just academics but encompasses the entire range of human skills, abilities and talents.

Tom Spitznagle (5) (8) (8) (8) (5) (5) (4) (4) (4)
It has been common for many of the state’s low and moderate income students to start with a technical or community college education, get a job and some experience, and then further their education (at the U of M for example) if they so desire, thus allowing them to assume more responsible positions (some in leadership) and gradually improve their financial well-being. I don’t know why this approach wouldn’t work for all minority students too. As a matter of fact, many minority students are already taking advantage of this approach. As stated in the interview, community college is essentially free already so that should not be a roadblock for anybody.

There is also a strong tendency for social programs to address symptoms without addressing the underlying causes. As a result, too often significant public resources are used and the situation remains basically unchanged. In this situation, is it only [not] having the financial resources required to access higher education at the U or private colleges that is the main problem holding back minority students?

Mina Harrigan (8) (8) (5) (10) (5) (8) (8) (8) (10)
 

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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.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje (Executive Director), 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

 

 

 


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Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.
 

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