St. Paul, Minn. (August 12, 2010) – The leaders of two Minnesota non-profit groups are urging all gubernatorial candidates to begin the general election campaign by closing ranks around a common goal: dramatically increasing higher education completion levels over the next decade, and focusing especially on the achievement and attainment gap for racial minority populations in Minnesota.
Currently only about 50 percent of Minnesotans as young adults have any kind of higher education credential, lacking even one- or two-year degrees or certificates. The rate of completion for African-American and Latino youth, the fastest growing percentage of our population, is alarmingly lower than for white students.
“Minnesota’s economic strength and its superior brand as a state rests squarely on having one of the most highly educated workforces in the nation,” said Dane Smith, president of Growth & Justice, a policy research group that focuses on economics, expanding prosperity, and state tax-and-budget issues. “That status is threatened by stagnant higher-education attainment rates, and we need to make ample and cost-effective investments to revitalize our economy.”
Growth & Justice in the 2011 legislative session will be aggressively promoting a proposal to set a specific goal to increase Minnesota’s attainment rate to 75 percent by 2020, or half again higher than the current level of about 50 percent.
“In order to have the numbers of college degreed citizens that we will need, Minnesota should not only set an overall mark but we should also set specific attainment goals for each community of color, such as Texas has done in their “Closing the Gaps’’ higher education plan,” said Carlos Mariani Rosa, executive director of the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership and state representative from St. Paul. “We need to do a better job of understanding how each community’s pathway to completing higher education varies, so we can work with them towards success.”
Policies and interventions that have been recommended by Growth & Justice and/or the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership include: high-quality early childhood education for all; individual mentoring; reducing tuition costs and expanding financial aid; improving K12 teacher quality to get students college-ready; expanding the Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program, International Baccalaureate (IB) and other K-12 college prep and college credit opportunities; and engaging parents and community leaders in reinforcing motivation and knowledge about college access.
Leaders in all major political parties recognize the value of higher education to our economy and our broader common good, and President Obama in Texas this week reinforced his administration’s “moon-shot” goal of recapturing America’s traditional status as the most educated nation in the world.
Growth & Justice through a series of meetings and presentations this fall will be building legislative support for its Smart Investments in Minnesota Students strategy. For more information, visit http://www.growthandjustice.org/gotocollege.html.
The Minnesota Minority Education Project will host a Frontiers in Racial Equity Conference on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010, for more information on this event and other advocacy and policy work, visit www.mmep.org.