New Higher Education Institution Needed to Serve Rochester Area, Consultants Say

Posted: June 14, 1996

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

A new approach to building on the higher education strengths of the Rochester community and meeting student and employer needs has been recommended by a team of consultants.

The best way to ensure the efficient delivery of quality higher education programs and services is to establish a new institution, the consultants' report says.

The Rochester Institute of Colleges and Universities (RICU), as the consultants call it, would not offer instruction directly. Instead, it would rely on existing higher education institutions to provide classes.

The institution would provide certificate and two-year programs through the consolidated Rochester Community and Technical College and contract with other colleges and universities to provide baccalaureate and advanced degree programs for the Rochester area. It would provide all of the support services for the University Center Rochester.

"The institution's primary responsibilities would be needs assessment, strategic planning, setting standards, quality assurance and accountability," the report says.

"In one sense RICU would be a 'virtual university' responsible for assuring that higher education needs are met for the residents of Olmsted County and its environs and relying upon the best available institutions to deliver the educational programs," the report says.

The consultants, T. Edward Hollander, a former chancellor of the New Jersey Department of Higher Education, and Brian Zucker, a former Minnesota higher education and government policy analyst, spent six months studying the higher education needs of the Rochester area.

Rochester community leaders requested the study to explore ways of improving the delivery of educational programs and the need for developing new academic programs. Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) and the University of Minnesota jointly identified and retained consultants to conduct the study.

The Rochester Community Advisory Committee is scheduled to discuss the recommendations on June 19 with representatives of MnSCU and the U of M. The MnSCU Board of Trustees and staff and the U of M Board of Regents and staff also will be reviewing the report.

"The report and the recommendations are fairly detailed and lengthy," MnSCU Chancellor Judith Eaton and U of M President Nils Hasselmo say in a June 13 letter to Dr. Franklyn Knox, chair of the advisory committee. "We in MnSCU and the University of Minnesota as well as the community advisory committee members in Rochester will need to study and discuss the document."

The next step is to develop a draft action plan in consultation with the advisory committee, the faculty and staff at the University Center Rochester, other individuals and groups in Rochester and the consultants. The target date to complete the draft plan is July 8.

Eaton and Hasselmo say their initial reading of the report "suggests that it is basically sound and will be a useful planning document."

In the letter to Dr. Knox, they express concern about one aspect of the report -- the consultants' recommendation that a local governing board oversee the proposed new higher education institution in Rochester.

"The need for community involvement in our colleges and universities is crucial," they say. "The opportunities for a strong advisory and partnership role in Rochester are especially great, given the unique resources in Rochester.

"However, to extend the authority which now resides in the Board of Regents and the Board of Trustees to a local board in Rochester would require statutory changes which we believe are neither feasible nor good public policy," Eaton and Hasselmo say.

The Rochester community is served by three MnSCU institutions and the University of Minnesota. The MnSCU institutions are Rochester Community College and Riverland Technical College-Rochester -- to be consolidated as Rochester Community and Technical College on July 1 -- and Winona State University. The community and technical colleges are the principal partners in the University Center Rochester with Winona State and the U of M.

"The presence of these colleges and universities has made it possible to provide a wide variety of programs in Rochester," a memo to the Board of Trustees notes. "At the same time, the separate governance of these institutions has made delivery of services somewhat awkward.

"Also, there is community concern that additional programs are needed to serve the Rochester area."

It was that concern which prompted community leaders to work with MnSCU and the U of M in undertaking the just-completed consultants' study. The consultants were asked to explore ways of improving the delivery of educational programs and study the need to develop new academic programs or directions.

The consultants evaluated several options for the governance of higher education in the Rochester area, but found serious shortcomings with most, including the idea of a new four-year university.

"In our view, after studying the data, a new four-year college could not compete effectively with the very best institutions now available to the community's college-age populations," the consultants' report says. "Such an institution to be very good would require a major investment in new resources...

"Since the available capacity is sufficient, a new ...(university) would have to displace existing institutions to succeed. We are not persuaded that Minnesota requires another residential four-year institution. And we are skeptical that such an institution, in the traditional mode, will meet Rochester's needs for higher education," the consultants say.

The proposed Rochester Institute of Colleges and Universities offers a better solution to meet the area's special needs, the report says.

"The Rochester community seeks an institution which it can afford and with which it can identify," the consultants say. "Our proposal responds to that need."

Both consultants have extensive experience in higher education governance. Hollander, of Princeton, N.J., is a professor in the Graduate School of Management at Rutgers University. Besides heading the New Jersey Department of Higher Education, he has served as deputy commissioner for higher and professional education for the state of New York. Zucker is president of Human Capital Research Corp. in Chicago. A former vice president for research and policy development with the Minnesota Private College Council and Research Foundation, he also was a senior economist with the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development.

MnSCU, a system of community colleges, technical colleges and state universities, serves more than 151,000 students at 62 campuses in 46 communities throughout the state.


Minnesota's 31 state community and technical colleges, and universities serve more than 430,000 students across the state.