MOORHEAD - Colleges and universities in northern Minnesota plan to do less competing and more collaborating.
About 20 campuses in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system have formed a northern Minnesota alliance to better serve rural parts of the state.
Minnesota State University Moorhead President Edna Szymanski said the campuses are working together in ways they never have before.
"We all know that it can't be any longer about our institutions," Szymanski said. "It has to be about our regional economies and how to better serve our students."
Presidents of the institutions will meet today in St. Paul to begin their discussions.
Anne Temte, president of Northland Community and Technical College, said the two-year college presidents want to bring four-year degrees to their communities.
"A number of people in our rural areas are hungry for higher ed opportunities, but they can't dislocate from their jobs or families to pursue that," said Temte, who leads campuses in Thief River Falls and East Grand Forks.
The two northern state universities - MSUM and Bemidji State University - are part of the alliance. Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall also is part of the group because it serves a rural area with similar needs, Szymanski said.
Minnesota State Community and Technical College, with campuses in Moorhead, Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes and Wadena, is also part of the group.
Interim President Peggy Kennedy said one example of how the campuses could work together is to establish university centers on two-year campuses.
Community college students could go to those centers to get information about bachelor's degrees and take some four-year classes.
The campuses also are looking at how they can collaborate on some of the behind-the-scenes administrative duties.
MSCTC is already processing payroll for the MnSCU system office and four other colleges from its location in Perham.
Kennedy estimates that MSCTC will process payroll for as many as 40 percent of the state's two-year colleges by the end of the fiscal year.
Chancellor Steve Rosenstone, who began leading the state's 54 campuses last July, has challenged the presidents to work together to make better use of limited resources.
"We're rethinking almost everything we do in the system," Rosenstone said.
Szymanski said the alliance is in its early stages, but officials hope to have some new initiatives in place by next fall.
"You're going to see some real out-of-the-box ap proaches to education in northern Minnesota," Szymanski said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590