Friday, February 06, 2004

Alarms sound over review 

In his State of the State address yesterday, Governor Pawlenty announced that there would be an assessment of higher education by the Citizens League. Pawlenty said:
It's also high time to strategically re-think the future of Higher Education in Minnesota. We need to make sure the system is structured, managed and governed in an optimal way to meet future needs. We've asked the Citizens League to lead a state-wide effort addressing the alignment and capabilities of our higher education programs.
The IFO, our statewide faculty union, has already sent up alarms. According to its director of government relations, Russ Staton,
The Citizen's League is a metropolitan based private non-profit group that is dominated by corporate types. They have issued reports in the past advocating the high-tuition/high aid funding model, which would cut state financial support for public higher education institutions and direct the money into student financial aid programs that disproportionately benefit private college students. Do not be surprised if the Citizen's League advocates closing rural institutions to redirect resources to the metropolitan area.
Might be something to it -- the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press speak approvingly of Pawlenty's move. And there is evidence that they have supported high-tuition/high-aid models (see their 2001 report on higher education), though I've had thoughts about this a long time ago and am not sure they're wrong. But what we'd like to see here at the Scholars is a review of MnSCU's structure. Does it make sense to have one board of trustees for so many different schools? That might not necessitate a full break-up of MnSCU. As I have mentioned, the Claremont Colleges operate with six presidents and six boards of trustees, but one business office and a centralized physical plant and maintenance. If the League could address that issue, maybe they would have something useful for us at SCSU.