MnSCU board approves partnership in Japan

Posted: October 21, 1999

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

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees today directed Chancellor Morris J. Anderson to continue negotiations with Japanese officials to try to find a way to keep operating a university program in Akita, Japan.

But at the same time, the board authorized Chancellor Anderson to take steps to phase out the Minnesota State University - Akita program by March 31, 2001, if the negotiations officials are not successful.

"I want to be very clear about my position," Anderson said. "I want the MnSCU system to have a significant and strong presence in the Pacific Rim area." He said he is hopeful that an agreement can be worked out to offer expanded opportunities for American students to study in Japan, but he acknowledged that there are no guarantees that such an agreement can be reached.

Anderson said Walter Mondale, former U.S. ambassador to Japan, and Governor Jesse Ventura, who will be visiting Japan next month, have agreed to help work out an agreement to preserve and expand MnSCU's Japanese presence.

The MSU-Akita program, which grew out of 1986 trade summit meetings, opened in May1990. At the time of its opening, officials had hoped the program would be self-supporting and would serve 175 to 200 American students and 750 Japanese students. Enrollment has never been above 51 American students and 365 Japanese students. Currently, 48 American students and 225 Japanese students are enrolled there.

In the meantime, costs per student have increased. MnSCU is now spending about $25,000 per year for each American student enrolled in the program. The average per-student state cost for the 36 state colleges and universities in Minnesota is about $5,000. The Akita program cost MnSCU $1.1 million in 1999.

At the time MnSCU opened its program in Japan, a number of other American universities also were opening branches in Japan. In 1992, there were more than 40 American-style campuses in Japan, but that number has now dwindled to a handful. In a public hearing Tuesday at St. Cloud State University, where the board is holding its regular monthly meeting, former Akita students and faculty members told board members that the Akita program is unique. American students attend for one or more semesters and take courses in Japan Area Studies and International studies. Japanese students learn how to speak English.

Under the resolution adopted by the board today, Anderson is authorized to take the following actions to prepare for possible suspension of MSU-Akita:

  1. Notices may be sent to faculty and staff of the possible closure of the program
  2. Recruitment and acceptance of new students may cease temporarily
  3. Japanese officials may be notified that MnSCU intends to phase out the program for American students after March 31, 2000, the end of the current academic year

The board also asked Anderson to report in December on how discussions are progressing with Japanese officials. Final board action to suspend the Akita program would be taken in December, if the negotiations are not successful.


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