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Ryan Johnson, Published June 19 2013

MSUM partnering with MSCTC

MOORHEAD – A new “experiment” between Minnesota State Community and Technical College and Minnesota State University Moorhead could be a win-win for the state’s higher education institutions and students.

The up2U program will start this fall with a unique idea – offering a junior-year tuition discount for MSCTC graduates of up to $4,000 once they start at MSUM, with the amount of their scholarship dependent on their grade-point average and how they do on the Collegiate Learning Assessment that measures critical thinking and writing skills.

Paul Carney, an English instructor on MSCTC’s Fergus Falls campus and developer of the partnership, said it could help students save on tuition and reduce their debt.

Carney said it’s about much more than just another round of scholarships.

“It drills back into the classroom,” he said. “It will change teaching; it will change learning; it will change curriculum. It’s not as simple as a GPA, a test and here’s your tuition reduction.”

Carney said the plan came together through more than a year of discussions among nine faculty members representing three campuses of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. He said the goal is to move beyond the focus on graduation rates and student enrollment to shift the conversation about higher education back to its purpose – education.

Students can enroll at any of the four MSCTC campuses – Moorhead, Detroit Lakes, Wadena and Fergus Falls – or take classes online beginning this fall. They must enroll in at least nine credits each semester, maintain a GPA of at least 2.0 and complete a transfer degree within three years.

In their last semester, students are required to take the CLA+ test that measures their critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving and writing skills.

If they meet the guidelines, students will be offered a scholarship of up to $4,000 for their junior year at MSUM.

Carney said the formula also has strong motivation for students to focus on learning as much as they can and not just keeping up a high GPA because their test score will be a bigger factor in how much money they’ll get.

Instead of looking for a professor to get an easy A in a class, he said, students will be more likely to seek out a challenging instructor in a tough course – an experience that will give them a better chance at a higher score on the CLA+ and more money.

The plan also calls for increased academic support for students, including workshops and tutorials, to keep them on track.

“We really want to support students so that they do succeed, not just in our classroom, not just after two years, but at MSUM and beyond and in the workplace,” he said.

MSCTC expects 150 or more new students will participate in up2U in the fall, with successful participants enrolling at MSUM by fall 2016.

In a written statement, MSUM Provost Anne Blackhurst said the program is “the next logical step” in the university’s partnership with MSCTC and its efforts to boost graduation rates.

“At the same time, it is an innovative and ground-breaking program that acknowledges the need to make fundamental changes in our business practices in order to make higher education more accessible and affordable,” she wrote.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587