Archive for the ‘Academia’ Category

Is the Ship Sinking?
by Silence Dogood

Thursday morning, an email came from the Vice President for Finance and Administration Tammy L. McGee announcing the departure of the Director of Human Resources Holly Schoenherr.

Holly was responsible for the Great Place to Work Survey. The results of the GPTW Survey can only be described as an indictment of the administration (others might say a vote of no confidence in the administration). Additionally, the ‘reorganization’ of the Human Resources area has been described by some as a ‘house cleaning’ where a number of key long-time employees left out of exasperation.

Heather Weems was hired in June of 2012 as SCSU’s first female athletic director replacing Morris Kurtz who had been SCSU’s athletic director for twenty-seven years. Less than four years later, just after cutting 6 sports programs, negatively affecting 80 out of 530 student athletes, it appears that she is looking to leave SCSU. On March 31, 2016, Heather Weems was announced as one of four finalists for the Athletic Director position at Grand Valley State (the position ultimately went to another person).

Mark Springer was appointed Dean of the College of Liberal Arts in May 2012. Although it has long been rumored that he was applying for positions elsewhere, this April he finally became one of four finalists at Montana State University. After interviewing on April 14, 2016, the selection of the new dean has yet to be announced.

Last year, after only one year on the job, the Associate Provost for Student Success and Dean of the University College Dr. Bruce Busby decided to retire rather than continue working at SCSU. The listing for the University College is listed below.

On top of these duties, the latest reorganization added oversight of the Summer School program and concurrent enrollment programs (S2S) to his list of responsibilities. Overseeing these two programs is almost a full-time job by itself. When added to what amounts to the workload of four or five positions, he must have been thought to be Superman. While given the current financial circumstances it is clear that people will be expected to do more (with less)—this is simply ridiculous! It is not hard to understand why Dr. Busby might have chosen to leave SCSU for retirement back in Ohio. Not only is the weather better, he won’t have to wear as many hats! In fact, he won’t have to wear any hat unless he’s fishing in the Mighty Maumee River. As an interesting side note, two people have now been tasked with the responsibilities that were formally assigned to Dr. Busby.

With all of the ‘reorganization’ that has occurred since President Potter’s arrival in 2007, SCSU must be the best-organized university in the country! Unfortunately, it seems that the pattern for most administrators at SCSU is to come in and reorganize and then leave BEFORE the full effects of their reorganization are known.

From the Provost’s website, the list of deans of the colleges and schools is shown:

Looking at the list, Provost Ashish Valdya is in his first year. Dean David Harris is in his first year. For the Colleges and Schools, there are four interims listed. The majority of the deans and associate deans were interim deans before being appointed to their permanent position. None were in permanent positions prior to 2012. As a result, this administrative team has very little institutional memory since none has been in their position on a permanent basis for more than four years. Additionally, at least one is actively pursuing employment away from SCSU.

One can always choose to look at administrators leaving as an example of those people being the ‘best’ who have lots of opportunities. However, when you see the sheer number of administrators who have left, SCSU must be the “Harvard of the Administrative World.” Unfortunately, with a large number of interims being appointed to permanent positions, it is also likely that it decreases the applicant talent pool because qualified candidates ask themselves if it is worth the effort to apply if the interim is going to be appointed to the permanent position in the first place. Clearly, there are qualified individuals that have been appointed to permanent positions after previously serving as an interim. However, of the permanent deans or associate deans, only David Harris and Adel Ali were not interims in their positions before becoming permanent.

There is an old adage about experience:

The administrators at SCSU don’t seem to have a lot of experience. Hopefully, these inexperienced folks won’t be making too many mistakes for the first or second time. Unfortunately, with a declining enrollment and dire financial situation, SCSU can’t afford too many more mistakes in the first place!

What SCSU Needs: A Beer Major!
by Silence Dogood

According to an MPR article on April 24, 2016, “an Illinois university has a new accredited degree in fermentation science to train future brewers, distillers and vintners.”

According to the article, “We know this is a growth industry and our students will be well prepared to gain employment in this field.” As a result of enrollment declines and the concomitant budget deficits, SCSU’s President Potter is beating the bushes to grow enrollment by creating new programs. With an on-campus FYE enrollment decline from FY2010 through FY2016 of 24.5%, rushing to create new majors to attract students seems a bit like an act of desperation. However, in this case, a ‘beer major’ fits in well with the university’s decision to sell beer at hockey games “to enrich the student experience.” In fact, with the explosive growth in micro-breweries, the potential for a “Husky Brew” to enhance the SCSU brand is obvious. SCSU could be the first MnSCU university with its own brew! Think of all the free publicity you could get for that! After Colorado legalized consumption of pot, applications at the University of Colorado at Boulder increased by 30,000 applicants in the first year. So considering the recent enrollment declines this seems like a natural decision for SCSU.

The MPR article ends with the statement: “a 74,000 square-foot, geo-thermal building called the McLafferty Annex Collaborative Research Facility on the campus’s west side will be home to the program.” Another plus would be that a ‘beer major’ would fit in well with the intended purpose of the Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility (ISELF) and in even a cursory walk around the ISELF building it is clear that there is plenty of space available to house it. As a result, SCSU already has available building space for the program saving millions in building costs.

A Beer major would be a natural tie in to Husky Hockey beer sales with the potential for additional revenue coming from eliminating the middleman. All that would be necessary is to simply run a line from the ISELF building to the Brooks Center and voila, Husky Brew on tap! And you can’t say it wouldn’t be popular—I’m sure there would be all kinds of interest!

If there’s a message that comes through loud and clear in this op-ed, it’s that Mike Vekich, the current chairman of the MnSCU Board of Trustees, and Dr. Rosenstone, the current chancellor or MnSCU, think MnSCU is underfunded.

That message came through when they said “Our supplemental budget request of $21 million will protect critical programs and the people who deliver those programs on all our campuses, people like faculty and tutors, academic and financial aid advisers, career and mental health counselors.”

It’s disgusting that MnSCU is asking for additional funding, especially in light of the fact that MnSCU was just criticized for spending $617,000 on Dr. Rosenstone’s rebranding initiative. I noted in this post that Brandon Johnson and Gloria Kaul-Kennedy, students within the MnSCU system, openly mocked the rebranding initiative. Ms. Kaul-Kennedy said “The money could be well spent on many other things. The name change will mean nothing to 99.99 percent of the people. Don’t the administrators have other things to spend their expensive time on?” Johnson said “It cost $272,000 for someone to come up with a name they got from a ‘Coach’ rerun?”

That was before it was known that MnSCU had spent another $345,000 on the rebranding effort. That wouldn’t be the final cost of the initiative, though. It’s important this quote from Silence Dogood’s article:

However, the costs are not going to end at $617,000. New signage, stationary, documents, websites, etc. will be needed. Clearly, this will not occur without an additional cost.

Silence is right. Signage, stationery and other documents don’t come free of charge. The simple truth is that MnSCU would be properly funded if MnSCU administrators didn’t spend money this foolishly. The truth is that MnSCU couldn’t spend that money foolishly if the MnSCU Board of Trustees hadn’t just rubberstamped Dr. Rosenstone’s spending requests.

If the MnSCU Board of Trustees won’t pay attention to these things, then they’re utterly worthless. They might as well be disbanded.

Finally, students have noticed that MnSCU isn’t run well. Universities are laying off professors. Morale is sinking. Minnesota is experiencing a brain drain competition, which it’s losing.

Rather than rebranding MnSCU, perhaps Gov. Dayton should consider fixing the problem by hiring competent people to run things.

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The Enrollment Numbers Are Actually Worse Than They Appear!
by Silence Dogood

The enrollment declines at SCSU are stunning:

Even with the slight uptick of 9 FYE in FY2016, the decline still amounts to a drop in enrollment of 21.1%. If the data were calculated based on the enrollment in FY2010, the decline is even greater since the enrollment in FY2011 was 15,096 FYE.

Of course, there is a lot of hand wringing by the administration and blaming the recession, the subsequent recovery, part-time students, changing demographics and when that doesn’t work simply saying that everybody’s declining. I guess there is comfort in drowning if everyone is drowning? Unfortunately, by avoiding taking responsibility for drowning, no one looks to see if drowning was avoidable in the first place.

The overall FYE enrollment is a compilation of a lot of different sources: on campus students, traditional PSEO students, concurrent enrollment students, online students and graduate students.

The number of FYE generated by concurrent enrollment students (i.e., high school students who get college credit for their high school classes) from FY11 through FY16 is shown in the figure below:

Growing from 428 FYE in FY2011 to 620 FYE in FY2016 is a growth of 44.9% in a five-year period!

The data for concurrent enrollment is easy to find. Unfortunately, the number of traditional PSEO students (i.e., high school students who take college classes at a college campus) is not as easy. However, after some digging, the FYE data for traditional PSEO students is shown in the figure below:

Growing from 185 FYE in FY2011 to 272 FYE in FY2016 is a growth of an even more amazing 47.0% in a five-year period.

If you were to add the number of FYE generated by Concurrent Enrollment and Traditional On Campus PSEO, the following plot is obtained:

The growth from 613 FYE in FY2011 to 892 in FY2016 represents a growth of 45.5%. As a result, with a decline in overall FYE enrollment, and the growth in the Concurrent and Traditional On Campus PSEO enrollment, high school students are making up an ever-increasing percentage of the SCSU’s enrollment:

In just five years, the percentage of the total FYE enrollment has grown by an amazing 82.9%! When coupled with the declining enrollment, the number of available ‘traditional’ students has declined from 14,363 FYE in FY2011 to 10,968 FYE in FY2016, which corresponds to a decline of 23.6%. If the data were included for FY2010 to FY2016, the decline would increase to approximately 24.5%!

This means that in six years, the number of non high school students that are living on campus, in the surrounding community or commuting to SCSU has declined by nearly 25%! The effect of this decline on the university and the surrounding community is enormous. In 2009, the occupancy rate in the dorms was at 96%. By reducing the number of on campus students by 25% makes for a lot of empty dorms. The problem is only exacerbated by increasing capacity by adding 453 rooms in the Coborn’s Plaza Apartments. Now it should be easy to figure out why they are planning on demolishing W.W. Holes Hall, which might be the first of several dorms to be taken down.

If 25% of a population got sick, we’d call it an epidemic. If 25% of a population lost their job, we’d call it a depression. Why is there no reaction when 25% of a student population disappears over the course of six years? One thing is certain. The loss of these students has significantly affected the financial health of SCSU.

From reserves that were more than ten million to essentially zero in a few short years. A Composite Financial Index that is negative, and another round of budget cuts totaling more that 10 million dollars, indicates that SCSU is not where it wants to be. Unfortunately, even last week at a town hall budget meeting no details were given other than the administration says they are expecting an increase in some revenues so that the cuts would have to total somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 million dollars. Ten weeks from the beginning of the next fiscal year and there is no plan. At least not one that can be revealed to the public. For an administration that prides itself on being open and transparent, this doesn’t seem very transparent.

One needs to look back to a few weeks ago when all of the members of SCSU’s sports programs were summoned to a meeting at which time the closing of six sports was announced. None of the coaches were asked ahead of time how they could reduce expenses. The cuts were simply announced from the top down. I’m assuming that soon after the spring semester ends, the cuts for the rest of the university will be announced. Clearly, the administration’s strategy is to make the announcement AFTER most people have left campus. Some people will be happy, some will be sad. Others will be left scratching their heads wondering and feeling a sense of powerlessness. Plan on the morale on campus taking another hit.

When the Ship is Sinking, Rebrand!
by Silence Dogood

Unless you live under a rock, you know that MnSCU is experiencing significant financial difficulties. Declining enrollments and poor expenditure decisions have combined to place MnSCU at risk. In fact, the situation is so dire that MnSCU made a desperate request to the Minnesota Legislature for 21 million in supplemental funding to MnSCU’s base budget and two weeks ago appeared before legislative committees to justify their request.

One week after appearing before the Minnesota Legislature, the Associated Press, in an article in the St. Clout Times on April 20, 2016, reported that the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (i.e., MnSCU) is changing its name and will be known henceforward as Minnesota State. Additionally, the logo for the system is changing. The new logo appears below:

In 2014, MnSCU paid PadillaCRT, a public relations firm, $272,000 to do some brand research. According an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on April 20, 2016, Chancellor Steven Rosenstone is quoted as saying that “brand research has found the MnSCU name to be confusing.”

“Why do organizations rebrand in the first place? In a study of 165 cases of rebranding, Muzellec and Lambkin (2006) found that, whether a rebranding follows from corporate strategy (e.g., mergers and acquisitions) or constitutes the actual marketing strategy (change the corporate reputation), it aims at enhancing, regaining, transferring, and/or recreating the corporate brand equity.” (Wikipedia)

What is the brand equity of a University or University System? An obvious answer is the power of the brand to attract students and impact enrollment in a positive manner.” The following figure shows the total FYE enrollment in the MnSCU system from FY2003 to FY2016:

Enrollment at MnSCU institutions has grown for most of its’ existence with the decline in enrollment happening after Steve Rosenstone’s appointment as Chancellor of the system. It appears that Chancellor Rosenstone’s solution to declining enrollment is a marketing campaign to make MnSCU look good rather than actually be good.

We’ll likely never know where Chancellor Rosenstone got the idea for rebranding. However, it is possible and even likely that he got the idea from one of his biggest supporters: President Potter at St. Cloud State University. In 2011, SCSU, President Potter decided to spend nearly half a million dollars to rebrand SCSU. SCSU’s enrollment peaked in 2010. To combat the decline, in 2011 he fired the Vice President for Enrollment Management and decided to enhance the university through a new logo and start a rebranding campaign.

The exact amount from the original contracts and extensions with Earthbound Media Group is $459,045.75. The original contract was signed 5/9/11, and there were three amendments.
A portion of the contract with EMG and SCSU is shown below:

For the MnSCU system, the original $272,00 was spent just to say you should spend more. As a result, an additional $345,000 contract was signed to help roll out the change. To date, it appears that at least $617,000 has been spent to ‘rebrand’ MnSCU. However, the costs are not going to end at $617,000. New signage, stationary, documents, websites, etc. will be needed. Clearly, this will not occur without an additional cost.

In early April of this year, the Chancellor announced his decision to retire in 2017 and just barely a few weeks later has decided the rebranding will go forward with the new name and logo. According to an article in the April 19, 2016 St. Paul Pioneer Press, Trustee Bob Hoffman “called the name change and logo change a solution in search of a problem.” So at least one Trustee thinks that the rebranding campaign is a waste of money (especially when nineteen of the MnSCU institutions are experiencing financial difficulties resulting in the development of financial recovery plans).

However, not all of the MnSCU trustees, excuse me, Minnesota State trustees, think this rebranding effort is a waste of money. Enough is enough! Any member of the Board of Trustees (whether MnSCU or MS)who voted to approve the funding for the rebranding should resign. The Chancellor should also resign.

Spending money on new names and logos does not really solve any of the problems facing the state university system. The MnSCU system has financial reserves but without solving the underlying enrollment and expenditure problems, it seems like spending money on rebranding is much like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We all know how well that turned out!

Hold the presses. After several articles were posted on the university email system about the rebranding, SCSU’s University Communication posted the following:

As a result, in an effort to stop the laughter over spending more than half a million dollars on rebranding, they announce that it isn’t really a done deal. I don’t really know which is dumber, spending the money on rebranding and then doing it or spending the money and not doing it. It is hard to believe that these people are actually running a 1.5 billion dollar organization. A portion of the FY2016 budget page is reproduced below:

If someone were to try to explain this all to me I think I would just laugh at them in disbelief. However, these are facts. I just can’t wait and see what the next fourteen months with Chancellor Rosenstone at the helm will bring. With the apparent lack of oversight by the Board of Trustees, I’m expecting the future will generate more examples that demonstrate additional examples of incompetence.

If I was advising Steven Rosenstone, the ‘retiring’ MnSCU chancellor, about communications, I’d quickly teach him the first rule of holes. The first rule of holes is simple. If you’re in one, stop digging. I’d add that, if you ignore the first rule of holes, the second rule is similar but more urgent. The second rule of holes is that if you’re in one and you’ve refused to stop digging, stop digging ASAP.

While explaining why MnSCU has spent $617,000 on rebranding MnSCU, Chancellor Rosenstone recently said that “brand research has found the MnSCU name to be confusing. He said the system must be able to communicate the benefits of attending one of its schools.”

This is consultant-driven thinking. Another term for consultant-driven thinking is stupidity. If MnSCU stopped spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants, administrators and rebranding efforts, they could direct more money towards great professors. That, in turn, would trigger better student outcomes and higher placement rates after graduation.

Academic reputation and high placement rates after graduation is more effective in turning MnSCU around. Students and parents don’t spend much time sitting at the kitchen table wondering whether the student will be able to transfer from Metropolitan State to Moorhead. They spend their time figuring out which university will give them the skills they need to get a high-paying job. Brandon Johnson and Gloria Kaul-Kennedy have figured it out. They’re both students. Here’s what Johnson said:

It cost $272,000 for someone to come up with a name they got from a ‘Coach’ rerun?

Here’s what Ms. Kaul-Kennedy said:

The money could be well spent on many other things. The name change will mean nothing to 99.99 percent of the people. Don’t the administrators have other things to spend their expensive time on?

Ms. Kaul-Kennedy’s statement and question instantly put a smile on my face because she’s figured out what’s a priority to her and what’s foolishness. Here’s hoping that the consultants and administrators don’t negatively influence her thinking.

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Enrollment Declines at MnSCU Universities
by Silence Dogood

The FYE enrollment data for the 7 MnSCU universities from FY10 through FY15 is shown in the table below:

The data for FY16 is not shown because the numbers will not be final until 45 days after the end of spring semester. The data shown in the table are final enrollment numbers as reported by MnSCU.

The last column in the table is the difference between the enrollment in FY15 and FY10 so it represents the five-year change in enrollment. All Minnesota State Universities but Metropolitan State University have a decline in enrollment for the five-year period FY10-15. When you look at the data, the declines are not large except at Moorhead and SCSU where the decline tops 1,000 FYE. In fact, the decline at SCSU (3,245) is so large it is almost equal to the total enrollment Southwest Minnesota State University (3,679)!

When you calculate the percentage of the decline in the MnSCU system due to each of the universities, you obtain the following:

From the data in this table, it is clear that SCSU and Moorhead are responsible for 86.5% of the total decline of the enrollment for the MnSCU universities. However, SCSU by itself, at 65.6% of the total decline, is clearly responsible for the majority of the decline of the whole MnSCU university system.

While I have no clairvoyance as to the motivation behind the MSU—Mankato faculty member who proposed a resolution at the recent Faculty Association Delegate Assembly to ask the IFO to work towards the removal of President Potter, the data in the table clearly shows that SCSU presents a significant liability to the MnSCU system and consequently to all of the MnSCU universities.

Some people have commented that they were surprised the resolution to remove the SCSU President was introduced by a delegate from another (often rival) university. Perhaps given the recent enrollment data and continuing financial troubles at SCSU, it is even more surprising that the resolution was not introduced by an SCSU delegate. However, as I have been reliably informed, it is quite literally shocking that not one member of the SCSU delegation rose to speak against the motion. The motion passed with a two-thirds majority.

From FY10 through FY14, the percentage enrollment decline at Minnesota State University—Moorhead amounted to a decline of 11.1%. As a result, two years ago, Moorhead’s president was ‘encouraged’ to retire. For SCSU, the enrollment decline from FY10 through FY15 is substantially larger at 21.5%. Last fall, President Potter was rewarded with a three year contract extension. What’s wrong with this picture?

[Editor’s note: It isn’t a stretch to think that Chancellor Rosenstone is protecting President Potter.]

When it comes to pissing away money, few government organizations are better at it than MnSCU. According to this article, MnSCU paid $270,000 “to shed most of its 41-character name.” It isn’t comforting to know that it’s part of MnSCU’s rebranding effort. In fact, it’s disturbing. What’s worse is that MnSCU didn’t get its money’s worth.

According to the article, “In spring 2014, MnSCU hired Minneapolis-based PadillaCRT at up to $270,000 to work on its brand. One year later, the PR firm recommended renaming the system Minnesota State.” The thought that MnSCU paid PadillaCRT $270,000 to come up with the name Minnesota State is infuriating. They could’ve gotten better results by having a PR class at one of its universities work on this as a class project. Those students couldn’t have done worse than “Minnesota State” and it would’ve saved MnSCU $270,000.

I did a little digging into PadillaCRT, which led to their About page. PadillaCRT’s sales pitch reads “The lines between public relations, advertising, marketing and digital and social media have blurred. What’s clearer than ever before is that humans long for meaningful connection. And people are loyal to brands whose true purpose reflects their own worldview. Whether purposeful connections are delivered via website or advertisement, app or annual report, PadillaCRT is dedicated to creating a powerful bond between the soul of your brand and the people who matter most.”

PadillaCRT’s brand strategy page isn’t much better:

The first rule of brand strategy is don’t try to be all things to all people. We help our clients define their unique purpose and define a clear, compelling brand strategy – one that has the power to galvanize employees around your mission and reward customer loyalty. And if done right, you’ll turn skeptics into believers along the way.

If defining “their unique purpose” and defining “a clear, compelling brand strategy” is the goal, Minnesota State doesn’t cut it.

Simply put, the MnSCU board of trustees failed Minnesota taxpayers by not paying attention to how money got spent foolishly. There’s nothing acceptable about that.

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This LTE from Carolyn Nieters contains the obligatory DFL lie. Ms> Nieters fulfilled her obligation to the DFL by saying “I saw in the news that House Republicans like Rep. Jim Knoblach proposed investing exactly zero dollars of our $900 million surplus toward education for our community. Zero! Yet their plan includes doling out tax giveaways to the richest Minnesotans.”

If I got paid $20 each time a DFL politician or activist made that accusation, I’d be Donald Trump wealthy. Last May, I spoke with Rep. Greg Davids, the chairman of the House Taxes Committee, about his tax bill, which I wrote about here. When I contacted Chairman Davids to respond to Gov. Dayton’s statement about tax breaks for “millionaires and billionaires”, he said “My bill does not do that. Eighty percent goes to individuals. Tax relief is for the middle class…. My tax bill is tax relief for the poor and middle class.”

First, Ms. Nieters should be criticized for thinking that increasing spending on anything should be paid for with one-time money. That shouldn’t happen. Period. That money should either be rebated back to the people or used to fix Minnesota’s roads. Next, Ms. Nieters either doesn’t know that this is a supplemental budget or she knows and hides that fact from readers.

Last spring, Kurt Daudt and Tom Bakk negotiated a bipartisan budget agreement. That agreement included a significant increase in education spending. Is Ms. Nieters suggesting that we ignore Minnesota’s roads and bridges to pay for additional education funding? If that’s her plan, about the only people who’d agree with her are members of Education Minnesota.

Then there’s this BS:

After a decade of shifts and gimmicks, with students facing crushing college debt and the need for things like pre-K for our youngest learners, we are going to give away our surplus to those who already have the most wealth and power?

Ms. Nieters, did you even bother reading Chairman Davids’ tax bill? If you insist that you did, then you’re either lying or you need lots of help in remedial math and remedial reading. Nowhere in Chairman Davids’ bill does it offer a windfall for “those who already have the most wealth and power.” That’s either a figment of your imagination or you’re just lying.

It’s worth noting that the surplus has shrunk by $1,000,000,000 since last session. The February, 2015 forecast had a projected surplus of $1,900,000,000. In December, 2015, that had shrunk to $1,200,000,000. Now it’s shrunk to $900,000,000. (Apparently, the booming Dayton economy is a myth, too.)

After the DFL legislature passed the biggest tax increase in Minnesota history and Gov. Dayton signed it into law, capital flight from Minnesota accelerated. This study verifies that with IRS statistics.

It’s time to reject the DFL’s failed policies. It’s time to criticize the DFL for their web of lies, too.

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More Meaningless Rankings?
by Silence Dogood

It is not hard to find rankings for colleges and universities; a simple online search will reveal a host of different ones. Clearly, some are better than others. Niche is one of the more popular that is available by signing up for a free account.

Just being curious and having nothing better to do, I searched for St Cloud State University and the following page came up:

While I’m not sure about how all of the rankings are tabulated, an Overall Niche Grade of C looked average and unimpressive. In Lake Wobegon (i.e., Minnesota), according to Garrison Keillor, “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” I’d also like to think of myself as being above average so this is a bit disappointing.

On the bottom right of the image, there is a list of the schools to which St. Cloud State University is frequently compared. So I clicked on the link for Minnesota State University and the following page came up:

So by whatever measures are used, SCSU’s main rival comes out ahead on the scorecard. I think I’d be a lot happier be a B- instead of a C!

A more detailed look at the rankings shows that SCSU is ahead of rival Mankato in terms of:

The two universities are tied for:

Mankato tops SCSU in the following categories:

Unfortunately, the list where Mankato tops SCSU is far longer and the categories are probably more important measures of quality of a university (especially the first two measures). It is understandable with these rankings why MSU—Mankato ranks as a B- compared with SCSU’s C.

However, in looking at the data, what jumped out was the numbers for the acceptance rate. MSU—Mankato’s acceptance rate is 66%, which means that about 2 out of 3 of the students who apply are admitted. Contrast Mankato’s acceptance rate of 66% with SCSU’s acceptance rate of 87%! Essentially, just about everyone who applies for admission to SCSU gets in. So much, as one former SCSU President aspired, for SCSU to become the “Harvard of the Midwest.” In the past, SCSU was considered the “flagship” of the system and was the most difficult of the system universities to gain admittance while Mankato was considered to have an ‘open door policy’ for anyone applying being admitted. Clearly times have changed.

Also on the list of frequent comparisons was Winona State University. I’ve always had a pretty good impression of WSU and always thought of them as being a bit more selective for admissions. I clicked on the link for Winona State University. The following page came up:

According to the Niche data, the Overall Niche Grade for Winona State University ranks ahead of both SCSU and MSU—Mankato. Clearly, Winona State University has a large number of rankings of As and Bs. However, what is most striking is their acceptance rate is only 61% so clearly out of the three universities they are the most selective.

Does having a more selective admission standard make for a better university? If the quality of all of the applicants is the same, one might make the case for that university being at least academically ‘better.’ However, the quality of the faculty and staff and the resources available might be significantly more important measures of quality. Ultimately, it is the prospective student who gets to decide how important each of these measures is to them. Unfortunately, when you rank behind your competitors on more of these measures, you make it a lot easier for a prospective student to choose to go somewhere else. It’s a shame that SCSU currently ranks so low. It wasn’t always that way.