The Minnesota State system is a cornerstone of Minnesota higher education, enrolling 340,000 students a year across 30 community and technical colleges and seven universities.1 Minnesota State community and technical colleges in particular are a critical part of the state’s higher education infrastructure: they are comparatively affordable pathways to earning a credential or certification and are conduits to the state’s four-year schools. Broadly speaking, Minnesota’s community and technical colleges bolster the state economy by helping students climb the economic ladder. But at the core of that mission is an important question: who is left behind?
For students and families looking to make the best decisions about their education, lawmakers who determine how Minnesota’s higher education ecosystem fits into the state budget, community partners and businesses who depend on higher education to create a capable workforce, and other stakeholders, the important role Minnesota State community and technical colleges play demands the transparency and accountability that data provides. The challenge for higher education in Minnesota, which is not unlike the challenge for higher education across the country, is not that data doesn’t exist, but rather that it is often clunky, disconnected, and inactionable.
As a part of a continued effort to advocate on behalf of 180,000 two-year college students, LeadMN is proud to present the LeadMN Campus Scorecard Project, an analysis of data on all 30 community and technical colleges in the Minnesota State system where our students are enrolled. In this project, we evaluate data for each institution along six key benchmarks: attainment, developmental education, transfer, affordability, equity, and voting. We assign institutions a grade for how effectively they perform on each benchmark.
The LeadMN Campus Scorecard Project is a product born from the efforts, input, and advice of several individuals and organizations. It would not be possible without support from the Joyce Foundation. We appreciate the Minnesota State system’s commitment to sharing the data that supplanted a large portion of the project, as well as the data and analysis from the National College Attainment Network and Students Learn Students Vote, which helped us take a closer look at affordability and voting by campus. A special thanks goes to Mike Dean, who directed the project, Brenna Swanson, who designed the report, Sergio Aguilar and Ernest Ezeugo, who provided data analysis, writing, and copyediting support.