MnSCU granted broad authority to launch new online education programs

Posted: May 27, 2004

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

New online college courses and programs now can be launched more quickly by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System because of new authority granted to the system to accredit its online programs. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System is the largest system in the country granted this level of accreditation authority by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

"This new authority to approve online courses will enable our seven state universities and 25 two-year colleges to develop and offer accredited programs faster, more efficiently and in more collaborative ways," said James H. McCormick, chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System.

Already, the system's universities and colleges offer more than 2,300 course sections and 70 programs online. McCormick said he would like to see the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System emerge among the top five public systems in the country in online delivery of educational offerings. With support from the system's Board of Trustees, he has encouraged aggressive expansion in online opportunities through the creation of Minnesota Online, a clearinghouse of online courses, programs and services offered by the system.

"The commission's action indicates that our system has the technology and the leadership in place to be a national model in online education," said Kathleen Nelson, president of Lake Superior College and chair of the system's Online Council.

Beginning June 1, colleges and universities within the Minnesota system that create new online degree programs will submit their programs to Minnesota Online rather than to the national association for accreditation. The change will streamline the process, cut the approval time by months and lead to more online offerings by the state's largest system of higher education. The new approval process is expected to lead to a coordinated and comprehensive menu of offerings by system institutions.

The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which covers a 19-state region, is one of six regional institutional accrediting associations in the United States and grants membership to educational institutions.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, which serves 240,000 students annually in credit courses and another 130,000 in non-credit courses annually, has established a general process for program approval. In 2003, 17,000 of the system's students took online courses. The Minnesota Online Web site is www.minnesotaonline.org.