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When Sen. Moe created MnSCU, he envisioned a system that worked. He couldn’t have envisioned the structure that currently exists. First, here’s what he envisioned:

During the 1980s Minnesota legislators discussed various options for governing the state colleges and universities. In the 1991 session, Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe introduced legislation to merge the seven state universities, 34 technical colleges and 21 community colleges under one board. Senator Moe suggested that the merger of these institutions would increase institutional accountability, improve student transfer, coordinate program delivery and improve facility planning. The general expectation was that the merger would not save money in the short term, but that efficiency and effectiveness would be increased over the long term.

Of the five things hoped for, 4 have definitely failed. Institutional accountability hasn’t increased. Students’ ability to transfer hasn’t improved. MnSCU hasn’t done an effective job of coordinating program delivery, which means “efficiency and effectiveness” haven’t increased.

The only thing that might’ve happened — and I emphasize might’ve — is that facility planning might’ve happened. One out of five isn’t good.

Part of the problem is that you’ve got a bunch of academics making financial decisions. Another part of the problem is that the administrators and trustees are hidden in their ivory towers. The other problem is that these administrators and trustees are incompetent. There should rarely be a need to hire a consultant. That’s foolish. If these administrators were worth their salt, they’d be the experts. They wouldn’t need to hire consultants to be experts.

For instance, when St. Cloud State hired Earthbound Media Group, aka EMG, to help with their rebranding effort, the first question that should’ve been asked was whether rebranding was possible. The next question should’ve been whether a different solution was required. The third question that should’ve been asked was whether the job could’ve been done in house.

The answer to the first question is no. Rebranding isn’t possible. Providing a quality product is the only thing that’s needed to sell most products. Marketing a university is essentially futile. Either the university has a great academic reputation or it doesn’t. It sinks or swims on the merits.

The answer to the second question is yes. A different solution was required. Specifically, SCSU didn’t need a glitzy ad campaign. SCSU needed to commit to maintaining its recruiting connections. SCSU needed to avoid things like a Masters degree in Social Responsibility.

The answer to the third question likely was yes. I say likely yes because, unfortunately, we don’t know if there were any people on campus who would’ve done a good job with the job. I suspect there were people capable of doing the job but I can’t prove that.

What I know with certainty, though, is that President Potter didn’t want to consider these options because he knew the outcome he wanted. The last thing President Potter wanted was an independent-thinking group of professionals doing what was right. He wanted to head in a specific direction whether that was the right direction or not. This was his opportunity to put his imprint on SCSU.

Unfortunately for SCSU, that’s what happened. I say unfortunately because the rebranding project failed miserably. Since the rebranding project, SCSU has gone downhill fast. Enrollment is down. Deficits are up.

That’s why MnSCU’s competence is a myth.

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