Gov candidates on closing campuses

Looks like we’re getting a little talk on higher education from the major party candidates for governor.

Today DFLer Mark Dayton, Independent Tom Horner and Republican Tom Emmer answered a question from debate moderator Gary Eichten of MPR at the Minnesota State Fair’s Carousel Park.

Should MN shut down some of its higher education campuses?

Mark Dayton:

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I don’t believe so. Those are very important economic engines for those areas in greater Minnesota. If you look at the communities in Minnesota that are thriving in greater Minnesota, they’re almost always connected to a MnSCU campus, a community college, a technical college, a four-year university.

… The public sector does provide important jobs and it provides well-educated people, it brings young people there. It really is part of the economic vitality. You can go community by community throughout greater Minnesota and as I say, you’ll see the marked difference (between) those that have a public college or university and those that don’t.

Tom Horner:

Well, I think that’s the wrong question. I think the right question is: How do we take advantage of an environment next year when probably for the only time in my lifetime we will have a new president of the university, a new chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, and a new governor?

We need to take advantage of that opportunity to have a state-wide conversation that starts with the question of: What do we need out of our higher education institutions – both our two- and four-year schools?

And when we have that conversation, then I think we do need to put everything on the table. And we need to be asking: What are the core missions at each level? How do we fund it? How do we make sure that higher education is affordable for kids coming into school and affordable coming out so that we’re not saddling them with $40,000 - $50,000 in debt? How do we make sure that we’re asking the questions of: Do we have too many bricks and mortar or not enough bricks and mortar? But you start with the outcomes: What is it that we need to achieve?

And I believe that it is only an independent-thinking governor who can ask all of the questions, put all of the questions on the table, and get the real answers.

Tom Emmer:

I think what you asked was whether we should be closing some of our MnSCU campuses, and I don’t think that’s the first question that you ask.

The first question that has to be asked is we need to identify: Do we need the full menu of offerings at every MnSCU campus? Are they delivering what they’re supposed to?

Should we be specializing different campuses -- for instance up in Fergus Falls should it be public safety, down in Rochester should it be medical careers? Those types of things. We should be looking at that.

Then we should look at the resources that are going in and ask: Do we have too much administration? Is enough going into the classroom? Is enough providing the access for kids to get the education they need?

And only then, Gary, then you look at: Do we have the right number or do we need less? Do we need more?