What caused MnSCU to turn sour on the U's transfer decision?

Litecky

Well, this is an interesting change of opinion.

When I was raising some questions earlier this month about the University of Minnesota’s decision to scale back a bit on the number of transfer student’s it’ll be accepting, I wanted to get the reaction of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system.

It has some skin in the game, because it oversees the state’s two-year colleges, whose students make up more than a third of the U’s transfers. It’s also supposed to be “collaborating” with MnSCU in numerous matters, according to repeated statements by officials on both sides.

I spoke with Larry Litecky, interim vice chancellor for academic and student affairs on Nov. 9, six days after MPR’s Tim Post reported the transfer news.

Litecky didn’t seem too bothered. He tended to sidestep my repeated questions about the signal that the U was sending, but finally said:

“I guess all I can say is I was president for 11 years at Century College, and I get it when you sit down to actually figure out what you can afford to offer given the dramatic decline in appropriations over the years from the legislature … you’ve got to make choices, and that’s what we think the U is doing.

I don’t think we’re taking this personally inside of MnSCU — that it’s a slap in our face or something — it’s just the reality of what it’s like to run one of these orgs these days.”

But when the Pioneer Press asked him later, he sang a different tune.

The paper reported this weekend:

Interim vice chancellor Larry Litecky called the plan “troubling and disappointing,” saying it would disproportionately affect under-represented students at a time when their numbers have been increasing.

“In a lot of ways, this decision couldn’t be timed any worse,” Litecky said. “It’s a time of record-high demand.”

It goes against the state’s commitment to improve access to four-year degrees for all residents, added Litecky, who noted that amid talk of closer cooperation between the U and MnSCU, he heard of the plan through the media.

The U’s plan doesn’t mesh with the state’s push to increase minority, low-income and first-generation student enrollment, said MnSCU’s Litecky. The planned transfer limits come at a time when the system is graduating more students – and more of those under-represented students – than ever.

(MnSCU spokeswoman Melinda Voss said the quotations were accurate.)

I’ve asked for another interview with Litecky to see just what caused him to change his mind, since a mitigating factor or two in the decision that McMaster mentioned to me were not in the Pioneer Press report.

(The main one was that those most at risk of being cut would be those who are trying to transfer with fewer than 15-25 credits — not those who’ve completed their associate’s degrees.)

Voss said Litecky said the conversation he had with me prompted him to contact Bob McMaster, the U’s dean of undergraduate education, and do some more research. So we’ll see what prompted his concern.