What the MN Private College Council prez says about the State Grant


Although yesterday’s story, MnSCU students concerned over a proposed State Grant increase, was ultimately an issue between MnSCU students and the governor / Office of Higher Education, I wanted to get the voice of private colleges.

After all, their students are among those getting the largest shares of the governor’s proposed $80 million increase to the State Grant.

So I spoke with Paul Cerkvenik, president of the Minnesota Private College Council. He echoed much of what the state Office of Higher Education folks told me. But I wanted to offer a few highlights of our conversation.

Here they are —

On why investing in private-college students is in Minnesota’s own best interest:

“Private nonprofit institutions in Minnesota provide about 28 percent of all four-year degrees in the state of Minnesota, including a much higher percentage of degrees in some of the fields most critical to Minnesota’s economy. We provide 48 percent of all the degrees in physical sciences like chemistry and physics — and more than 40 percent of the degrees in fields four-year nursing degrees and math and statistics. So our colleges are critical to the economic success of the state.”

On why the importance of student choice in colleges goes beyond just comfort and personal taste:

“You’re allowing those students the opportunity to … attend a college that’s going to serve them well — including, in all likelihood, graduating them on time. Our colleges have not only the highest graduation rates in Minnesota and the Midwest, but among the highest graduation rates even for private colleges all across the country.”

On what type of student goes to a nonprofit private college in Minnesota:

“About one in three students — Minnesota students — at our colleges receive a grant. Our students have the same economic profile as students at public institutions. About one in four of our students come from families with incomes of less than $50,000. That’s the same as students at the University of Minnesota or at the other public institutions. So we serve the same kind of students, including low-income students.”

On the bang-for-the-buck that the state gets:

“Only 2.7 percent (of state higher-ed spending) goes to students who choose to attend our institutions. So it’s a very small share of the state dollars that are invested in higher education. But it has a huge impact for the state, producing 28 percent of all four-year degrees.”