From the President: Welcome to 2017! Great things are in store this semester

President Virginia "Ginny" Arthur
President Virginia “Ginny” Arthur

Dear students, faculty and staff:

Welcome to the start of this new semester! I hope you are feeling rested and ready for the unique opportunities that are waiting for you on campus. I am excited, too, about the events, milestones, and challenges facing us as a University community in the months ahead.

We have been preparing for many months for an upcoming site visit by a team from our regional accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission (Feb. 27-Mar. 1).

In addition to previewing a significant amount of information we have sent them in advance, the team is laying plans now to meet with groups of faculty, students, and staff while on campus, to gain additional information and perspective on our work. After the site visit, we will eagerly await their report, which will recognize recent progress and help shape the next phase of our continuous improvement agenda, in pursuit of teaching and serving students at the highest levels achievable.

One example of our continuous improvement efforts is a pilot process for academic program reviews that is being launched in the Academic and Student Affairs division this year. The review process, in combination with analysis of student learning outcomes, serves to evaluate program relevance, effectiveness, and alignment with Metropolitan State University’s mission and strategic goals, and generates insights that can inform continuous improvement goals.

Planning continues for our presidential inauguration events, April 7. While the name of such an event highlights the president, these occasions in the lives of universities are also priceless opportunities to attract the attention of the public and significant public figures to an institution’s students, programs, campus, recent accomplishments, and availability to emerging learners. It’s a chance for a growing public university to shine, and for us that means telling our story (which is really the sum of our students’ amazing stories). A university inauguration is an infrequent but valuable opportunity, and we are working to make the most of our 2017 event.

The fiscal year 2018 budget development process is under way, as promised. You can expect to hear and see frequent updates as we take the time to align resources with priorities, between now and July 1.

The 2017 legislative session began on Jan. 3. While the legislature returned to both a beautifully restored Capitol building and a long list of pressing issues to address, our attention is fixed on the Minnesota State Board’s biennial allocation request for operating funds for Metropolitan State and 36 other institutions for FY2018 and FY2019, as well as action members could take on tuition policy.

The Board’s proposal offers to hold tuition at current levels, if a request for $143 million (to offset 3 percent inflationary costs for each year) is approved. The request also seeks $25 million for student grants to reduce disparities, and $10 million toward a shared financing approach for the “ISRS Next Gen” initiative (toward which the system will contribute $75 million).

The Board’s $254.5 million capital bonding request was not addressed in 2016. Minnesota State has gone through a process of validating the items in the request in light of circumstances on campus in the past year, and adjusted the items for inflation. The renewed bonding request for 2017 is $270.8 million (of which the system would finance $51.4 million). We have a strong interest in MCTC’s HEAPR request, which includes funds to upgrade and improve mechanical systems at MEC. In addition, projects at five Metro Alliance colleges will enhance the education many of our future students receive.

This legislative session is a pivotal time for our entire system, and specifically for our students, current and future. I invite you to follow your representatives’ work this session by subscribing to daily updates from Minnesota State. You can text SESSIONUPDATES to 22828, or sign up online .

After months of diligent research and negotiations, I am very pleased to announce that student health care will be available this semester. Watch for messages from the Dean of Students office for more details.

Finally, I want to again acknowledge the concerns of many for the security of immigrant students and those who are with us under the auspices of the DACA program. Therefore, I have joined hundreds of other college and university presidents in signing the Pomona College “Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and our Undocumented Immigrant Students.” This clear statement to national leaders has been endorsed by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, whose president has written directly to President-elect Trump .

I plan to continue holding open office hours across our four main locations. These were well attended and very useful during fall semester. Look for the schedule to be released later this week; I hope you will drop by!

Again, I wish each of you a successful and rewarding semester.

Sincerely.

President Virginia “Ginny” Arthur
Metropolitan State University