Providing a nonpartisan model for generating and sharing          

    essential information on public issues and proposed solutions              

Shining a light on Minnesota public policy since 2005

                                                                                                  About Civic Caucus   l   Interviews & Responses  l   Position Reports   l   Contact Us   l   Home  

 Response Page - Rosenstone  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Steven Rosenstone Interview of



Steven Rosenstone, Chancellor, Minnesota State College and University System (MnSCU) contends that post-secondary education must lead in closing a skills gap that is holding back Minnesota's economy and future job creation. He believes that post-secondary education providers must learn with great precision how many workers and professionals, with what kinds of skills, are needed in which regions, for what kinds of jobs and develop course curricula accordingly. He notes that both teachers and learners must be accountable for setting and achieving measurable employment-related outcomes. In the near future, he believes, certain distinctions between "high school" and "college" will no longer be obvious. He asserts that all aspects of post-secondary education need re-examination.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary: Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Rosenstone. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Skills gap restrains the economy. (7.9 average response) Minnesota has an immediate and growing skills gap that is holding back its economy and further job creation.

2. Leaders need precise data. (6.5 average response) Post-secondary education providers must learn precisely how many workers, with what skills, are needed by which regions for what kinds of jobs.

3. Base achievement on proficiencies. (7.4 average response) Rather than just relying upon credit-based certificates and diplomas, each academic and technical training program should specify and measure proficiencies that each graduate will meet.

4. Redesign grades 11-14. (7.6 average response) Grades 11-12 in high school and the first two years of post-secondary education should be redesigned together to enable more students to start and succeed in appropriate post-secondary education.

5. Reevaluate all post-secondary institutions. (7.7 average response) To assure effective use of limited state resources, all aspects of post-secondary education in Minnesota must be re-examined--including size, number, autonomy, and location of educational offerings and institutions, public and private.

6. Major restructuring is unnecessary. (4.5 average response) Post-secondary education in the state might need some fine-tuning here and there, but the problems are not so severe as to call for major restructuring.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Skills gap restrains the economy.







2. Leaders need precise data.







3. Base achievement on proficiencies.







4. Redesign grades 11-14.







5. Reevaluate all post-secondary institutions.







6. Major restructuring is unnecessary.







Individual Responses:

R. C. Angevine (7.5) (7.5) (5) (10) (7.5) (5)

2. Leaders need precise data. While I agree that this is a worthy goal I am concerned about its achievability. Certainly the more information about what types of job skills are needed makes the job of providing the education to supply those skills much easier. I believe that work also needs to be done to educate future workers in a way that makes them flexible enough to take on a variety of jobs with a reasonable chance of success.

3. Base achievement on proficiencies. I don't see these as conflicting items. I would assume that a particular type of certificate or degree equates to a particular set of skills and proficiencies.

Chris Brazelton (7.5) (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (5)

6. Major restructuring is unnecessary. Not enough facts presented to make a determination.

Larry Collette (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

Anonymous (7.5) (2.5) (2.5) (2.5) (0) (7.5)

1. Skills gap restrains the economy. I am concerned about the level of preparation of students graduating from high school who choose not to go on to university. If high schools were able to better prepare these students it would help the economy, but many of them face myriad other challenges.

2. Leaders need precise data. In our quickly changing economy good basic math, science, computer, reading and writing skills are most important, as anything more specific is likely to be in one day and out the next.

3. Base achievement on proficiencies. This is difficult because assessment of proficiencies is a difficult and subjective task and there is always the question of who will measure those proficiencies and whether they can be trusted to be objective and unbiased.

4. Redesign grades 11-14. Post-secondary education is not necessarily appropriate for all students, so high school learning should be improved so that two years aren't spent learning what should have been learned in high school.

5. Reevaluate all post-secondary institutions. The post-secondary education system in Minnesota works as well as it can given the resources that it has available. A major shake-up would be tremendously disruptive and very harmful, at least in the short run.

Michael Sher (10) (2.5) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (0)

Anonymous (0) (0) (0) (0) (0) (10)

Ray Ayotte (7.5) (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (0)

Frank Schweigert (7.5) (0) (2.5) (10) (10) (2.5)

2. Leaders need precise data. The idea of highly precise targeting of education programs is misguided. Individual companies can do this in their training programs, but the state universities and colleges have a different role. The universities and colleges exist to provide the broad base of education needed for full participation in society: employment, business development, civic responsibilities, personal development. Successful students graduate with the ability to direct their employment and business interests in multiple directions, and to situate themselves in a career track with a range of options for growth, job opportunities, and entrepreneurial options.

3. Base achievement on proficiencies. This is not an either-or question. It is both-and. Academic institutions must assess student proficiencies and at the same time credential them with a credible and lasting degree or certificate.

4. Redesign grades 11-14. Closer linkages between high school and college are indeed needed. Note, however, that this entails monetary investment in student learning planning--to some extent, working with individual students to help them overcome barriers in English language learning, or writing, or mathematics, or a variety of other areas.

5. Reevaluate all post-secondary institutions. This re-examination should be on going, and in many programs it is already happening. There is nothing new in this idea. Educational institutions operate in a highly competitive environment and have to be examining programming continually.

6. Major restructuring is unnecessary. Some restructuring might be needed. For example, today's New York Times ran an article about decreases in funding for state universities nationwide, especially in areas expensive to maintain, such as engineering and nursing. The funding structure is not working, if we go in that direction. Perhaps there are public-private partnerships in these areas, to pull corporate investments into the educational process. There may also be more need for individualized programming.

Virginia Eernisse (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (5)

David Broden (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5)

1. Skills gap restrains the economy. The job skills gap is real and growing. There seems to be interest by several groups and individuals but the need is not well communicated and understood. The gap must link … what jobs are evolving, how current job skills are changing, and the importance of both education for those entering the workforce and those in the workforce who need to remain current. This does require a more effective partnership with industry to capture a vision of the workforce of the future.

2. Leaders need precise data. Understanding the evolving jobs mix and what skill must be included in various types of education. The education community needs to establish a strong connection and links with the evolving needs of jobs.

3. Base achievement on proficiencies. Proficiencies may be more critical than grades and diplomas. Internship and apprentice programs that offer that link need to be strengthened.

4. Redesign grades 11-14. A link of job skills with education must be central theme.

5. Reevaluate all post-secondary institutions. Structure and resources must (be) a core to the planning and readiness process.

6. Major restructuring is unnecessary. It is easy to say change without thinking about why and what. Need first to focus on the skills gap and then where and how.

Bruce A. Lundeen (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (7.5)

1. Skills gap restrains the economy. It seems like there is a shortage of people willing to work at

jobs where skills working with ones hands must be developed.

2. Leaders need precise data. It seems there will have to be a movement away from social and liberal arts based education.

5. Reevaluate all post-secondary institutions. It appears the Universities claim more value than they deserve. The education they provide may not be rigorous enough to be of value later in life.

Pat Barnum (7.5) (5) (10) (7.5) (10) (0)

2. Leaders need precise data. I hope the plan isn't to spend millions of dollars and several years for another government "study".

4. Redesign grades 11-14. The theory is interesting, but you have to define who pays. With the huge push for more and more publically supported pre-K, and now to "14", how much can the taxpayer afford? In addition, we are graduating students that cannot pass the basics needed to enter even a community or tech college. If you want to study something, check out the number of remedial courses students are having to take, and pay for, before getting to classes that will give credit towards a degree. Either high schools are failing to provide adequate living skills in reading and math; or the accutestor is designed to sort out 4-year degree path-ed students from those that need tech skills. I know many successful plumbers, or repairmen, or landscapers, or welders that got by with about an 8th grade education. Why are we requiring strong written skills, for example, to start a program for press operators?

5. Reevaluate all post-secondary institutions. High schools budgets have sadly forced tech ed out of most of the high schools. These kids don't even know what jobs exists in the blue collar world, and believe either they have to be smart enough to go to college, or end up flipping burgers, or more lucratively selling dope on the corner. That creates the cycle that they don't sign up for MNSCU programs such as printing. Then MNSCU shuts them down. Eventually our current workforce is going to retire and there will be no one left to make the parts for things we expect to buy in stores.

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

Don Anderson (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (5) (7.5) (7.5)

W. D. (Bill) Hamm (10) (0) (0) (0) (5) (10)

1. Skills gap restrains the economy. The problem is your commentator didn't come close to addressing the outright racist aspect of this achievement gap. He also fails to address the failure of our public schools to teach the basics knowledge needed to even begin skills training.

2. Leaders need precise data. Under this type of socialist system the post secondary schools will have to assign to fill the needed skills categories thus ending students individual choice of occupation. If the emphasis is put on as he suggests, (then) schools will have to limit positions open to only those qualifying students, or assign students to certain professions determined by the region they choose to live in.

3. Base achievement on proficiencies. These college grad teachers can't even begin to accurately measure academic skills now. How will they ever measure these technical proficiencies? Much of what is being done here is to undermine workplace safety such as the new maintenance technicians who are expected to be millwrights, electricians, maintenance mechanics, and welders all rolled into one. So long as (people) like this continue to support industries’ desire to combine these diverse skills and under-train them, these workers are being set up for death.

4. Redesign grades 11-14. More socialist (nonsense) that only results in the system becoming more racist and socio/economic biased and further favoring the children of the upper classes. Return control of K-12 to local control and keep these … "educrats" out of our face.

5. Reevaluate all post-secondary institutions. That should always have been an ongoing effort. There should be no need to have to suddenly start doing this now, as this is common sense.

6. Major restructuring is unnecessary. We absolutely do not need anymore arrogant, socialist, top-down solutions. Push the power and control back out to the local level as every step toward centralization of power has only further undermined quality of everything it has touched. One size does not fit all.

Jeff Peterson (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (0)

6. Major restructuring is unnecessary. The employment needs of employers and employees requires targeted education and training to match up mutual needs as well as continuing education for mid-career transitions that will be inevitable. Multiple options have to be available to achieve success for our ability to compete in a world economy.

Peter Hennessey (5) (2.5) (2.5) (7.5) (2.5) (0)

2. Leaders need precise data. This is an elusive if not impossible task. Employers in the private sector have great difficulty with this kind of forward visibility. Nothing in this discussion indicates that the school systems even consult the private sector to obtain such information -- or why entire industries are relocated to foreign lands with mostly unskilled workforces. Nothing in this discussion indicates any interest in learning why jobs are going overseas, what skills the foreign workers have that Americans do not, what do foreigners learn in their schools that Americans don't learn in ours, etc. My experience in Europe, the US and China convinces me that the difference in the education systems is that the foreigners do not have social promotions, they emphasize the basics much harder than we do, they challenge and push the kids to much greater levels of proficiency in math, science, language skills, etc.; especially critical, analytical thinking, whether they are college track or not. Most importantly, they have a work ethic, not an entitlement ethic.

3. Base achievement on proficiencies. How … do you determine the requirements of an education program if not by the proficiencies the graduates will need to acquire? Can you really tell the required proficiencies of jobs five-six years from now that don't even exist today?

5. Reevaluate all post-secondary institutions. This kind of thinking smacks of a longing for central planning, which time and again has proved to be impossible and disastrous in every country that has tried it. We chose the path of the free market, and to a great extent, on-the-job training. We recognize that practically no jobs are static, all jobs require being adaptable to specific requirements that differ between one employer and another, one project and another, one customer and another. Schools cannot possibly predict all that, years in advance.

6. Major restructuring is unnecessary. You need to study the economy and see what skills are required in the private sector. You need to bring back technical / vocational education into the high schools; not everyone in high school is college material. You need to recognize that employers always want a direct plug-in replacement of the last guy who held the job, which is very difficult if not impossible even if you are talking about specific vocational skills such as welding. Most jobs require a broad based general education that develops a student's ability to think for himself and be adaptable as circumstances change. We are not machined parts; we are humans. Hardly anyone is in a job or profession now that they studied for in school. This is not explained by the inability of educators to foresee future needs, but indicative of the fluidity of the market place. Schools must lay a solid general foundation, and realize that whether people are working for others or for themselves, they need to be self-starters with a strong entrepreneurial spirit to get the job done, whatever it is, without constant supervision. Employers and customers do not have the time and patience to micromanage a worker, and it is an insult to the worker if they try. They must be confident that when the worker is given a task, assigned a mission, that the worker is capable of applying his resources to the completion of the task. There is no way that educators can foresee all that, years into the future, except by laying a solid foundation in the basics. After centuries of experience and proof that this is the only thing that schools can do, that this is the only thing that has ever worked, one would expect that educators would be intelligent and humble enough to accept the lessons of history, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel generation after generation.

Dane Smith (9) (8) (8) (10) (7) (4)

We have an outstanding big-picture thinker in our new Chancellor, focused sharply on redesigning the system, and somebody who also is quite persuasive on the need for more resources. The reason I marked only a "7’’ in box 5 is that this premise of resources being "limited’’ is artificial and self-imposed. In the recent past, we actually invested more money, as a percent of our capacity, into higher education, and we need to invest more as we spend an ever larger percentage of our lives in the learning mode.

Tom Sptiznagle (6) (10) (10) (9) (10) (4)

John Adams (8) (5) (8) (10) (10) (3)

Bright Dornblaser (10) (10) (10) (8) (10) (5)

Ted Kolderie (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

What are "new jobs"? (Surely not 'job openings'.) Are they new openings in existing job-classifications? What?

What proportion do the "new jobs" represent of total jobs?

What proportion of total jobs require post-secondary education?

Steven Rosenstone replies:
Kolderie: What are "new jobs"? (Surely not 'job openings'.) Are they new openings in existing job-classifications? What?

Rosenstone: Over the decade leading up to 2018, the number of jobs in Minnesota will increase by about 180,000. 152,000 of those new jobs will require some post-secondary education. The 152,000 are net new positions. This number does not speak to existing jobs that disappear and are swapped for new positions with higher levels of education, but do not produce a net change on the total number of positions. When jobs disappear and are replaced with new jobs, it is likely that these new jobs will also require some post-secondary education.

Kolderie: What proportion do the "new jobs" represent of total jobs?

Rosenstone: The incremental net new positions are about 6% of all the projected jobs in Minnesota.

Kolderie: What proportion of total jobs require post-secondary education?

Rosenstone: 70%

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

Wayne Jennings (9) (10) (10) (10) (9) (7)

It was refreshing to hear about two year degrees, certificates and other training processes (and

now, badges) in contrast to everything being a four-year degree. Friends in business say most prospective employees lack basic arithmetic skills. Why do we force everyone to take algebra II in order to graduate thus leading to more dropouts and "pushouts". The annual survey of high school students by Indiana University indicates again that many do not see relevance with their courses

Greater success in post high school programs means retooling the high school, and his suggestions for compressing the high school years and integrating with post high school would help many students get on with their lives. We need to be quite precise in what competencies fit future job requirements and societal expectations. Too much attention is paid to what courses students must complete versus actual competencies necessary for success in life and employment. The National Research Council's findings about the number of jobs requiring advanced math and science are at variance with the usual pronouncements.

Hence, I praise his emphasis on training obtaining critical data for making decisions.

John Milton (10) (9) (10) (9) (8) (0)

I agree with Steve Rosenstone on just about everything, but it will be difficult to design a program for 15-17 year olds that take into account that all choices of courses and majors aren't simply based on what careers are envisioned. Most change major 2-3 times during the college years. That said, if anyone can do this, it would be Rosenstone.

Roy Thompson (8) (4) (5) (5) (8) (5)

Directing excess attention to specific needs assumes all segments know the future both individually and collectively. Greater teacher training for all educational levels to instill educational support and continuing learning for the future is needed.

3. Base achievement on proficiencies. Credit based graduation may be satisfactory if there is enough integrity and dependability in course development and evaluation.

Arvonne Fraser (9) (6) (5) (5) (7) (5)

I worry about Rosenstone's preoccupation with training for jobs; education is much more than that, and jobs change. Education should be preparing for a good or decent life including being a responsible citizen.

Terry Stone (10) (5) (10) (10) (10) (0)

This discussion is perhaps most noteworthy by what wasn’t said. While it is clearly true that Minnesota has an immediate and growing skills gap that is holding back its economy and further job creation, the role of public higher education in the resolution is unclear.

Public post-secondary education has priced itself out of a growing share of the market. It has also produced a workforce that is only loosely tethered to the real needs of Minnesota’s 21st century economy. Where hard skills are needed, soft degrees have been robotically assembled. Programs like St. Cloud State’s aviation program have been canceled while a master’s degree program in Social Responsibility thrives.

Graduates of some degrees will have skillsets of no interest to the private sector. Too frequently, graduates will find themselves with robust student loans and unemployable outside the government sector. Only the private sector output is calculated in GDP and only private sector employment provides a return on investment for the taxpayers of our state

There no longer exists any reason to believe that Minnesota’s public higher ed system has the political immunity or intellectual agility to learn with great precision how many workers and professionals, with what kinds of skills, are needed in which regions, for what kinds of jobs. Nor is government central planning sufficiently nimble or historically efficient at such tasks.

A shift from credit-based certificates and diplomas to an environment where each academic and technical training program specifies and measure proficiencies of each graduate is a worthy goal. The existing network of 53 MnSCU campuses is generally agreed to be unsustainable and poorly suited to achieve this worthy goal.

The integration of high school with post-secondary vendors is a step in the right direction, but students need distance learning choices and both for-profit and not-for-profit competitors of public brick-and-mortar traditions.

Notwithstanding the well-known shortcomings of Minnesota higher ed, the entire system is being hijacked by a K-12 system that graduates an increasing number of students unprepared for any academic endeavor. Minnesota property owners pay for K-12 once for their school district to educate their children and, increasingly, a second time through MnSCU remedial classes.

Tom Swain (9) (8) (10) (8) (10) (5)

The state of Minnesota is fortunate to have Rosenstone in his current capacity.

Bert Press (0) (5) (5) (5) (5) (10)



The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

contact webmaster



Hit Counter