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On campus beat: Higher-ed chief plans to build relations

  • Article by: Jenna Ross
  • Star Tribune
  • January 25, 2012 - 5:21 PM

It looks like it might be a quiet legislative session for higher education.

After last year's debates over budget cuts, tuition caps and "human cloning," this year's big question will likely be the bonding bill.

"Nothing dramatic," predicted Larry Pogemiller, the new director of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.

He plans to use the time to "build relationships," he said, "so that we can get all the higher-ed stakeholders -- and both Democrats and Republicans -- headed in the same direction on higher ed."

Pogemiller, a longtime state senator and former DFL majority leader, said that his political experience is one reason Gov. Mark Dayton picked him for the post.

He hopes to use that know-how to build a bipartisan "foundation" for grand changes. "The time is right to generationally do something that moves Minnesota back to the forefront of higher education," he said.

For one thing, dramatic action is needed to close the K-12 and higher-ed achievement gaps, Pogemiller said. While the state's overall college completion rate is high, a gulf remains between white and nonwhite students.

"We absolutely cannot afford not to have every one of our young people succeed," he said.

He also expects more measuring -- of graduation rates and productivity, in particular.

The new leaders of the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system talk "more about outputs than inputs," Pogemiller said. "They're not resistant to a public-policy discussion of how to measure if we are preparing people appropriately, both civically and economically."

The Office of Higher Education ought to facilitate such conversations, analyzing data and informing leaders about "what is being done, what has been done," he said, and "what levers could I pull as a governor or legislator to get Minnesota where it needs to be."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

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