ST. PAUL ― "Fall semester has been a success," Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra told The Globe Thursday.
By "success," Malhotra means that 163,000 students were in school at Minnesota State's 30 colleges and seven universities this semester, and there were no significant COVID outbreaks on any of the campuses.
When individual students tested positive for the virus, all quarantine and contact tracing protocols were followed, he explained. Other precautions include class size limits, social distancing, masks required on campus, extra sanitization and moving as much coursework as possible online.
At present, less than one-third of instruction is taking place in person, Malhotra said. This is down from the typical three-quarters.
Some courses, such as those in welding, have to be taught in person, so students take a COVID-19 screening on their phones before they enter any campus buildings. Off campus, all students are strongly encouraged to follow Minnesota Department of Health guidelines for slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Stricter regulations went into effect at Thanksgiving, as Malhotra was aware that students were likely to travel home to their families for the holiday. Those same rules will continue to apply at least through January 2021, depending on how the pandemic develops.
While a COVID-19 vaccine certainly is a hopeful step, "the pandemic is raging at high levels and is by no means behind us," Malhotra noted.
As the state moves toward economic recovery, Minnesota State will have a significant role to play, he said. This past spring, 26,000 students were awarded certificates, degrees and/or diplomas, and 5,500 of those were in nursing or another health care field. Minnesota State will continue to develop the workforce that will help the state return to economic vitality.
"I'm very proud of the resilience demonstrated by our faculty and staff and students," Malhotra said.
Moving into the next budget biennium, Minnesota State plans to present a budget request of an additional $120 million to the state legislature. A total of $75 million of that would go toward maintaining financial stability as the colleges and universities continue to operate; $23 million would fund Minnesota State Access Scholarships, which go to economically vulnerable students; and $22 million would support students' basic needs, such as food, housing, health care, mental health services and childcare.