MnSCU introduces itself to the state Senate

Tame Senate hearing today for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system today.

It was mostly an introduction for members of the Senate's committee on higher education. System leaders laid out stats, what MnSCU does, the students it serves, its successes, etc. There were a few words on the challenges, but most of the talk was fairly general.

A few things MnSCU officials told the committee:

  • Research by the Washington Monthly magazine -- the one that named St. Paul College the best community college in the country -- shows Minnesota community colleges are among the best in areas such as retention, customer service and training for industry.

  • MnSCU retains an open admissions tradition -- meaning anyone with a high school diploma or GED can get into a community college -- but as Chancellor James McCormick told the committee, "We are under enrollment pressures."

  • Although MnSCU training programs do a good job of working with industry to design programs that give them employees they need, the chancellor said, "where we don’t do well is in predicting the vast changes that are occurring."

  • Recently ordered cuts to MnSCU's headquarters should not have any impact on students.

  • One senator asked, "Wouldn’t it be nice if we took care of these remedial things before (students) got out of high school? Chancellor McCormick said later: "I’ve never been one to point fingers at public schools, because we produce a lot of teachers" -- but teacher training needs to be improved.

  • Online courses are not cheaper than classroom courses in many cases. The cost of teaching is a wash, and getting the class online can be pricey. But once online, some things could be cheaper than their counterparts in the classroom.

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