New Metro Plan Recommends No New Comprehensive Urban University; Reports Suggests No Further Mergers among Twin Cities Campuses

Posted: January 20, 1998

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

Future population projections for the Twin Cities metropolitan area do not warrant turning Metropolitan State University into a four-year comprehensive urban university, a consultant has recommended. The consultant, former state demographer Hazel H. Reinhardt, also says that additional mergers of two-year institutions in the Twin Cities area are not recommended.

The conclusions were presented today to the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Reinhardt directed a study, known as the Metro Area Master Academic Plan, of higher education institutions in the metro area. The board had authorized completion of a revised and enlarged metropolitan area plan before the start of the 1998 legislative session.

The Board of Trustees will discuss the report over the next several months and make policy recommendations. A separate facilities plan to allocate a $15-million capital budget request for the master academic plan will draw on the recommendations of the planning process.

Public hearings on the report are scheduled on Feb. 4 at Metro State's St. Paul campus and on Feb. 5 at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Reinhardt's analysis of data place future postsecondary education needs in the Twin Cities area in new light and suggest that two often-proposed structural changes are not warranted. "There is a sense of unfinished business, but the data do not support additional changes," said Reinhardt.

Reinhardt said there are insufficient numbers of students to support a four-year Metropolitan State University, a university that serves primarily older, non-traditional students. Such a change, Reinhardt suggested, would take not only a major change in mission but also more growth in the Twin Cities metropolitan area population than is projected through 2020 or beyond.

"If the development of Metropolitan State University is required, the system should look at specialized program niches for Metro State, partnership with other state universities through technology or a collaboration with the University of Minnesota University College," said Reinhardt.

The metro report also concludes that no additional mergers of metropolitan technical colleges and community colleges are needed. Reinhardt noted student characteristics at the metro-area schools and already-existing economies of scale suggest that additional mergers are unwarranted. She suggested further study of the mission and future of technical education.

"Very few metro-area high school students enter technical college right out of high school, unlike in greater Minnesota," Reinhardt said. "And because the metro institutions are already large there are no additional economies of scale to be gained. Additional mergers would only create very large institutions and not necessarily serve students better."