The public higher-education business model is fundamentally changing across the country.
In Minnesota, limited public resources and diminished public confidence in return on investment have caused a substantial reduction in funding for higher education, resulting in an increased reliance on tuition to fund operations.
In addition, as demographics shift in the Upper Midwest, recruitment and retention of traditionally aged first-year students has become more competitive and expensive.
While trends in higher education endorse efforts of schools to offer innovative and dynamic options to meet the rising expectations of prospective students and stakeholders, the challenge becomes how to expediently meet these expectations with less support and fewer resources. Traditional models of delivery and historical practices are no longer sufficient to remain competitive.
St. Cloud State University is responding to the increased expectations of our students and communities by sharpening our focus and reimagining how we deliver on our mission in this changing environment. To that end, our 2017-2022 Strategic Action Plan repositions St. Cloud State within the higher education marketplace, leveraging our strengths to expand our areas of excellence, increase our competitiveness and maximize our potential.
When institutions across the country have attempted to deal with declining public support and shifting student demographics, they have tried to reinvent themselves – to become a different kind of institution, to change their purpose and to abandon their academic core. St. Cloud State, however, has chosen a different path.
We decided to double down on our core mission and emphasize it even more through a refresh of our Strategic Action Plan, which began under the direction of our late President Earl H. Potter III. We called it a refresh because we believe that our fundamental mission and vision are sound. But we needed to bring focus and clarity to our strategies and integrate our changing environment and Our Husky Compact into our thinking.
Our Husky Compact is a bond shared by St. Cloud State and its students, and it is central to the work of our strategic plan. It also received accolades from the Higher Learning Commission accreditation team that visited campus in early November.
Four years ago, after our academic reorganization, the state reaffirmed St. Cloud State’s mission – not as a stagnant statement of the past, but as a forward-looking idea fundamentally grounded in our tradition of providing post-secondary education opportunities to improve the economic, social and cultural vitality of Minnesota and its people.
This challenged us to imagine what students must be able to know and do to be successful in a rapidly changing, technologically enhanced and increasingly globalized world. Our answer was Our Husky Compact, a commitment we make to our students and students make to their education that will prepare them for a life of intellectual, professional and personal fulfillment.
In a global environment of complexity, diversity and change, the dimensions of the compact provide our students a pathway to lifelong growth and development. Our Husky Compact unifies all members of the St. Cloud State University community in our commitment to deliver on our promise to students. To that end, we will collectively reconsider the world around us, discover and apply new solutions to challenges and opportunities we encounter in our professional and personal lives through risk-taking, innovation, and imagination.
With the compact at its core, the emerging strategic action plan challenges us to “build the 21st Century engaged university” through three primary themes: Engaging students, engaging the campus and engaging our communities in achieving increasing levels of student success and to contribute to a prosperous Minnesota.
Engaged student learning requires an active approach to delivering educational programs and services. We will continually encourage students to practice what they learn, integrating new knowledge and skills across a range of experiences.
Creating an engaged campus requires creating an environment that is organizationally and financially healthy, supporting the success and well-being of all members of our campus community. It also is a commitment to become an innovative learning organization in which we learn from and support each other.
Engaging with our local and global communities requires a commitment to positive, reciprocal relationships that place our partners at the center of our academic, social and cultural efforts. This will involve building sustained, rich partnerships that are relevant and responsive to community needs.
By extending our learning environment through a global network of strategic partners and institutions, we will be positioned to provide our students with international learning experiences and bring the world into the classrooms.
St. Cloud State is positioned to do its part in restoring public confidence in Minnesota’s higher education institutions. Our Strategic Action Plan answers the call to become an entity more than it is today — more responsive to changes in the world, more oriented toward student success, more accountable to community partners, and more engaged in the success of our state and its people.
Continuing our work together, we have crafted a new iteration of our original mission that was created nearly 150 years ago — to become Minnesota’s 21st Century Engaged University.
To A Higher Degree is published the fourth Sunday of the month and rotates among the presidents of the four largest Central Minnesota higher education institutions.