Back in 1991 when the Legislature established the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system through the merger of the state universities, community colleges and technical colleges, our vision centered on providing every Minnesotan access to affordable higher education. And while the early years of the merger were turbulent, MnSCU has established itself as vital to Minnesota’s success by delivering the bulk of the educated workforce critical to our state’s economy.

In many respects, the challenges to providing access to education and preparing the workforce are greater today than they were when MnSCU was formed. The fastest-growing segments of our population are diverse communities that have historically been underserved by higher education. At the same time, changes in Minnesota’s economy mean that more jobs will require at least some college.

In its recently released “Charting the Future for a Prosperous Minnesota,” MnSCU articulates the challenges and details actions to address them. The recommendations highlight the need for MnSCU colleges and universities to work together in new ways to improve affordability, quality, service and access. They suggest new approaches for reducing the time it takes to complete a degree and greater use of technologies to improve learning. And, most important, they emphasize the need to increase the success of all learners, especially those in diverse populations.

These are sound recommendations that set MnSCU in the right direction at the right time. They recognize that by leveraging the unique strengths and capabilities of each campus, and by working together in any number of new ways to better serve students and communities, the positive impact on Minnesotans and Minnesota’s local, regional and state economies will be much greater than would be possible through working independently. Successful implementation of these recommendations has the potential to finally fully achieve the mission envisioned for MnSCU when the system was created.

Roger Moe was a member of the Minnesota Legislature from 1971 to 2002 and was the Senate author of the legislation that created MnSCU.