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MnSCU's reforms get support from Gates Foundation

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The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System has caught the eye of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

MnSCU is joining 11 other higher education systems in a reform effort backed by the foundation, where they will learn about higher education transformation at a system level and collectively solve issues the systems encounter along the way, MnSCU announced Wednesday.

Chancellor of MnSCU Steven Rosenstone said the invitation to participate in the national initiative is "a tremendous honor."

He credited MnSCU's "Charting the Future" plan, which was adopted last November and is now being implemented, as part of the reason the system was chosen to participate in the partnership. The core value of "Charting the Future" is to "provide an opportunity for all Minnesotans to create a better future for themselves, for their families, and for their communities."

“We know how competitive the selection process was, so we are gratified that the priorities we brought forth allowed us to be selected for this national effort," Rosenstone said in the school system's statement. "We look forward to sharing the knowledge we have gained through our own efforts as well as learning from other innovative state systems that face challenges similar to our own.”

The ideals of MnSCU's newly-implemented plan are similar to the goals of the Gates Foundation's "Postsecondary Success" strategy, which aims to help public colleges and universities guide more low-income students to completing their college degree in an efficient and affordable manner, according to the foundation's website. The Gates Foundation says low-income students are 28 percent less likely to finish college than those in higher income brackets, and the education gap is only widening.

MnSCU was among 40 education systems nationwide that competed to enter the "long-term partnership to transform higher education," according to the Pioneer Press. A full list of participating state systems and the amount of financial support dedicated to the effort have not been released, the newspaper says.

The Gates Foundation has given more than $470 million in higher education grants nationally since 2006, the Pioneer Press says. Since 2000, the Gates Foundation has donated more than $12 million to the University of Minnesota, the newspaper reported. In 2010, the foundation awarded a $330,000 grant to MnSCU to help increase graduation rates, according to the Fairbault Daily News.

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