Why the Southwest MN State / MN West study?

I called MnSCU system spokeswoman Melinda Voss for a little more info on the system's study of its colleges and university in southwest Minnesota.

Specifically, officials there want to see how Southwest Minnesota State University and Minnesota West Community and Technical College could work better together.

If you look at a map, Southwest Minnesota State University, a four-year institution in Marshall, is practically surrounded by the five two-year Minnesota West Community and Technical College campuses -- in Granite Falls, Canby, Pipestone, Worthington and Jackson.

Voss said the central office is looking for a way to lower costs, better align and serve programs, and perhaps share services. She said one model could be the successful relationship between Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College.

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Better align programs? Sounds like they're trying to improve the credit-transfer system, which has drawn criticism.

But why now?

Voss said that when a president retires or resigns -- which Southwest's David Danahar is doing -- "it offers an opportunity for change. ... We’ve faced major budget reductions, and there are more on the horizon. We're looking at doing more with fewer resources."

Why a time of transition would help is unclear. One could argue that a long-established sitting president would have the local experience, stability and authority to study the issue and make the necessary changes.

Was Southwest's Danahar an obstacle to such alignment?

Voss said no.

The transition, however "is a natural opportunity to take a look," she said.