Posted: July 11, 2006

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system is joining with the communities of Faribault, Northfield, Owatonna and Waseca to assess current and future higher education needs of the region.

Prompted by the communities' interest in offering more higher education programs in the area, the study will be conducted by MGT of America, a national firm in higher education market research. The study is intended to assess higher education and workforce development needs among employers and residents; to identify barriers and access points to higher education and to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of various ways that higher education programs could be offered. Population patterns, economic activity and available resources also will be reviewed.

Currently, South Central College has a Faribault campus, where Minnesota State University, Mankato also offers courses. Riverland Community College and Minnesota State University, Mankato offer courses and programs at Owatonna College and University Center, a facility leased by Riverland.

System institutions participating in the study are Minnesota State University, Mankato; Riverland Community College in Albert Lea and Austin; and South Central College, which also has a campus in North Mankato. The study will be coordinated through the system's Office of the Chancellor.

Results of the study are expected to be reported to Chancellor James H. McCormick by late September. Findings will help the system determine the best options for meeting higher education needs in the area.

MGT of America will begin the study in late July with two regional forums. The first community forum will be held from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. July 24 at the Owatonna College and University Center. A second community forum will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. July 25 at South Central College's Faribault campus. Interviews will be conducted the same week with residents of the communities engaged in the study. The interviews will be followed by a survey of local employers in August. Those methods will provide the primary means for determining higher education needs and barriers in the region and also much of the basis for the firm's final recommendations.