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MnSCU chief promises to remember students

Don Davis/ State Capitol Bureau Steven Rosenstone delivers a speech Wednesday after being installed as Minnesota State Colleges and Universities chancellor.

ST. PAUL -- The new Minnesota State Colleges and Universities leader promised Wednesday to continue serving students despite what he called "the darkest cloud on the educational sky."

Chancellor Steven Rosenstone used a speech during his installation to both encourage the higher education community and warn of problems, especially funding woes.

He became MnSCU's fourth chancellor during a state Capitol ceremony, attended by a few hundred education and political leaders. Students, faculty members and others welcomed him to the job, which he started this summer after holding an administrative position at MnSCU's competition, the University of Minnesota.

Early in his speech, Rosenstone said that he has heard student complaints about tuition increases.

"You deserve our best, and you can count on us to deliver," he promised students, following it with a warning. "I'll confess, though, that I'm deeply worried about the darkest cloud in the educational sky: the shifting of costs from the state to students."

The new chancellor, who came from a University of Minnesota administrative position, said state higher education financial support has dropped 48 percent since 2000.

Sitting on stage with Rosenstone was Gov. Mark Dayton, who along with legislative leaders in the audience approved the deepest higher education cuts in state history. That followed a trend of lower-than-expected college and university spending over recent years.

Rosenstone promised that he would continue the commitment, courage and creativity that higher education leaders have shown for 150 years.

"That role cannot diminish in the face of current financial challenges," he added.

Rosenstone and others who spoke emphasized that not only traditional college students need classes. He told of a man, about 40 years old, he met in Willmar who thanked Ridgewater College for training him for a new profession.

The chancellor said not only did the student benefit, but his new employer got a trained worker.

Dayton told the audience that the colleges and universities Rosenstone now coordinates "have everything to do with" economic development in their regions.

Students from many countries and from diverse ethnic backgrounds attending MnSCU's 31 colleges and universities took to the stage to welcome Rosenstone, prompting Dayton to say that half a century ago when he was in school it would have looked like a delegation from the United Nations. Now, he said, it is a delegation from Minnesota.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.