Why four MnSCU college presidents?

The appointment of four college presidents in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system this afternoon might not be unusual, but it's a reminder that the Boomer generation is retiring -- and their replacements face the challenges of a system stretched for money.

The new chiefs:

  • Saint Paul College: Rassoul Dastmozd, vice president of instruction at Clark College in Washington;

  • Century College: Ron Anderson, vice president of academic affairs at Century College.

  • Anoka-Ramsey Community College and Anoka Technical College: (Interim president) Jessica Stumpf, current interim president of Anoka-Ramsey. (She'll serve as interim president of both colleges, which will be governed by one person starting this summer.)

  • Southwest Minnesota State University: (Interim president) Ronald Wood, retired president of Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

Four presidents falls in the middle range of yearly turnover among the 32 presidential positions. In the past decade, most years have seen two to five presidential replacements, according to MnSCU documents.

"Like everyone else, we have an aging workforce," said spokeswoman Melinda Voss. "We've had a lot of presidents retiring."

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Those replacing them will face some of the deepest cuts in state history. The House and Senate higher education bills call for cuts of 10-13 percent over the next biennium. They also want tuition caps of 2-3 percent for two-year colleges and 4 percent for universities.

Campus closures aren't being discussed, but MnSCU has been consolidating campuses. Stumpf, the interim president at Anoka, will be presiding over both colleges this summer as part of a realignment. And Southwest Minnesota State's Wood (and his successor) may have an especially challenging time with cuts and consolidation.

The university will have to shed up to $3.4 million from its budget, current President David Danihar announced early this year. And MnSCU has ordered a study of how Southwest can work better with Minnesota West Community and Technical College. That could mean a number of things -- including realignment.

In that case, the Southwest president could possibly end up presiding over both the four-year university and Minnesota West, which has technical education and five campuses. (That's an challenging mix, though Wood might be the man to handle it, considering he's a former Minnesota West president.)

MnSCU has experience with this already. Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College are governed by one president, as are colleges in the Northeast Higher Education District (the Hibbing, Itasca, Mesabi Range, Rainy River and Vermilion colleges.) They cut costs by sharing services such as human resources, billing and other business-office departments.

But the Southwest -Minnesota West realignment wouldn't be just a financial decision, MnSCU says. Associate Vice Chancellor Leslie Mercer said previous consolidations have happened during good economic times because they just made sense.

(And overall, Mercer and Voss said, the number of college presidents in MnSCU has dropped from something like 45 to around 32. )

If there's one twist in all of this, it's how Jessica Stumpf became interim president of both Anoka colleges. 

After a $62,000 search that found three semifinalists, at least one dropped out, Voss said. At that point, MnSCU officials scrapped the search.

Looking into the candidates' backgrounds, however, reveals that at least two of the candidates have problematic histories. Those two have fought with their boards, and another has been shopping around for jobs -- and perhaps not showing enough enthusiasm for the campus and its weather.

As one Anoka employee wrote in:

During his tours of the Anoka Tech and Anoka-Ramsey CC campuses, Dr. Kajstura kept talking about the weather and how cold it was and how much snow was still on the ground. He kept saying that he had never experienced this kind of weather and that March was supposed to be "spring time" and it was still winter here! A lot of folks who met him cam away believing that he just wants to be a college president some where, some day, but - would leave Anoka for another college presidency as fast as he could get out.