March 28, 2005
necessary to ensure the state's long-term economic and cultural success. Enhancing excellence also corresponds with what Minnesotans want for the university. Almost two-thirds of the state's residents want the university to be a top-ranked national university. The recent Citizens League report commissioned by Gov. Tim Pawlenty also recommends that the university "enhance its role and focus as a world-class public research institution (with) nationally selective undergraduate and liberal arts education."
The goal of excellence is fully compatible with access. We should be clear: The university has no intention of reducing the size of its undergraduate enrollment. One of our goals is to serve as a talent magnet for the state. A critical aspect of that goal is to improve our recruitment and retention of talented and highly motivated high school graduates who, when they do not come to the university, choose to leave the state, frequently failing to return. These future leaders seek an education at a world-class research university; providing such an education helps retain talent in the state.
Our pursuit of excellence does not imply any lack of attention to equity and to encouraging diversity in all its forms. Minnesotans expect us to be fair in our admissions policy. That is a commitment of this university. We pledge to do this by providing access to disadvantaged students who have been underrepresented historically and whose socioeconomic backgrounds make it difficult to attend the university in the absence of financial assistance.
The university is deeply committed to providing access to talented, qualified students from all walks of life, especially for those students of diverse racial, ethnic, economic and social backgrounds. This is an important value for Minnesota. To this end, we are offering substantial new scholarships to attract promising students who otherwise may not have been able to afford to attend our university.
At the same time, while we acknowledge that access to postsecondary education is vital to the future success of our citizens, not all students require, or are prepared for, the unique research and teaching mission of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. The wisdom of the Minnesota system of higher education is that it provides access for all interested students to a wide range of postsecondary opportunities: excellent community and technical colleges and other forms of superb undergraduate education, both public and private, including unique opportunities at University of Minnesota campuses outside the Twin Cities.
This year the university's Twin Cities campus is on track to receive more than 20,000 applications for 5,300 freshman positions. We are pleased that Minnesotans select the university as the college they want their children to attend. But we have a limited capacity, and we need to make choices. If we accept unprepared or less motivated students, or those whose skills are better addressed by other institutions, we will be failing the citizens of our state and better-qualified students will be denied admission. Students as well as faculty affect the quality and reputation of a research university. The learning that occurs inside the classroom as well as the learning that occurs through interactions outside the classroom is affected by the talent and preparation of the students. We must provide access, but to meaningfully meet our statutorily mandated mission, we must provide access to excellence. The next generation of Minnesotans deserves no less.
When students are admitted to the university, they should know that we are committed to quality and excellence at each task we undertake and, ultimately, to their academic achievement. The value of their education and degree depends on it. Access to excellence is key to each student's success. It should be the state's and the university's first priority.
Refer to University Strategic Positioning Website: