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MnSCU: Retooling Minnesota for Recovery

June 07, 2011 By Valerie Ong, Education Fellow

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During the economic downturn, MnSCU played a critical role helping displaced Minnesota workers quickly retrain and upgrade their skills to compete for jobs in new industries or attain higher-paying, more stable careers.

The colleges and universities saw enrollment increases throughout the state, with the biggest growth occurring among students 25-34. MnSCU is an attractive option for students and workers because of its affordability and accessibility. The system has 54 campuses in 47 communities in every corner of the state.

However, in recent years, state policymakers have retreated from funding obligations that have led to MnSCU’s success in developing an adaptable highly-trained workforce. In Fiscal Year 2006, the state paid $1.06 for every dollar a student paid in tuition. In contrast, the state paid only 78 cents for every $1 paid in tuition. Tuition increases and service cuts will only continue if the conservative legislature’s deep higher education cuts become law.

Maintaining funding to MnSCU is vital to every major economic sector in the state, especially in rural Minnesota communities and regional centers. Campuses in those areas provide local employers with a ready and able workforce that lives in and is invested in the community, making job recruitment much more efficient. The colleges and universities also work with about 6,000 employers to design custom job training that teach more than 150,000 students and workers.

One key area where MnSCU has been especially valuable is in the health fields. Of the system’s non-traditional students, those older than 25, more than 30 percent graduated in FY2010 with degrees from health programs.

Training and staffing well-skilled health care professionals statewide is critical in the coming decades, as retirements and aging baby boomers create a double crunch on demand. According to DEED, the top projected labor market growth areas for 2009 to 2019 are in the health field, which include personalized and home care aides and RNs. Together, they are projected to create some 51,000 new jobs over the given time period.

This report outlines the growth at MnSCU during the economic downturn and calls for continued investment is this vital economic development resource.

 

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