Higher Education Plan for Southwestern Minnesota Focuses on Enhanced Programs, Reduced Costs

Posted: April 17, 1996

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@so.mnscu.edu, 651-201-1426

Southwestern Technical College, Worthington Community College and Southwest State University gained approval today for a plan aimed at enhancing educational offerings and reducing administrative costs.

The plan, recommended by the presidents of the three institutions and endorsed by Chancellor Judith Eaton of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), was approved unanimously today by the MnSCU Board of Trustees.

Key elements of the plan include:

Consolidating Worthington Community College and the four campuses of Southwestern Technical College (at Canby, Granite Falls, Jackson and Pipestone) into one institution with five campuses on Jan. 1, 1997;

Centralizing the payroll, purchasing, accounting and management information services for the three institutions by performing those functions at Southwest State, starting July 1, 1996; and

Continuing to discuss the possibility of merging the community college and technical college with Southwest State, with the chancellor making a recommendation to the Board of Trustees in January 1998.

The presidents -- Connie Burchill of Worthington Community College, Ralph Knapp of Southwestern Technical College and Doug Sweetland of Southwest State University -- say the plan builds on a long history of cooperation among the campuses.

"There have been several regional organizations over the past 20 years," they say in a joint report. "Each had a slightly different set of players, but all had the same goal. This goal has been, and remains, to serve better the citizens of southwest Minnesota through cooperation."

Chancellor Eaton said the plan will strengthen the campuses and provide better service to students in the region.

"It is extremely important that we maintain educational opportunities for the people of southwest Minnesota," she said. "Presidents Burchill, Knapp and Sweetland have provided excellent leadership toward that goal."

The three institutions serve more than 5,700 students at their six campuses.

The presidents' report outlines several areas in which the campuses intend to increase collaboration. They include:

Expanding joint degree programs and cooperative programs. Many programs already exist. Southwestern Technical College (STC) and Worthington Community College (WCC), for example, have 26 approved joint A.A.S. degree programs. STC provides the technical education and WCC the liberal arts education. Much of the liberal arts portion is delivered from WCC to the STC campuses via interactive television (ITV). Similarly, Southwest State University (SSU) brings upper division and graduate classes in the business area to the WCC campuses via ITV.

The presidents propose to establish additional joint A.A.S. degrees between STC and WCC, and to explore having SSU deliver additional upper division classes to all of the STC campuses and to WCC. All three institutions should start to share faculty when possible, the report says.

Redirecting resources to address student needs and regional priorities. The institutions collaborate on several initiatives aimed at meeting regional and student needs. Examples include agronomy/agribusiness programs, technology degrees, nursing/health care programs and a wind/renewable energy program. New programs are being explored, including a joint four-year degree program in technology management or engineering technology involving STC and SSU.

Expanding distance-learning education. Distance learning through ITV has been an important method of reaching students in southwest Minnesota for more than a decade. In order to meet future educational needs, an expansion of the ITV system is needed, the report says.

Collaborating on academic programs. The report proposes several steps to avoid duplication in academic programs, to ensure smooth transfer of credits among the institutions and to share resources.