- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Administrators and faculty at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities have soothed months of acrimony with an agreement over how to handle an overhaul for the system’s 31 institutions.

Students and faculty will have a stronger voice in the rollout of Charting the Future, a plan that has faced sharp criticism since its formal introduction more than a year ago, two faculty unions and the system announced Tuesday. The agreement repairs a rift that jeopardized extra state funding for MnSCU.

Chancellor Steven Rosenstone has said the revamp will make the system more efficient and better align it with business needs. Critics argued it will turn MnSCU’s 54 campuses into homogenized degree factories for Minnesota industry.

Faculty pulled out of reform discussions in the fall, saying they embraced the plan’s values but were being ignored.

That worried students because they interact with faculty much more than administrators, said Kari Cooper, state chair of the Minnesota State University Student Association.

“We’re just happy that finally everyone is getting back on the same page,” Cooper said.

Under the agreement, Charting the Future will become campus-based and regionally focused.

Teams tasked with carrying out the plan will finish their work in June, said Kevin Lindstrom, president of the union for faculty at the system’s two-year colleges. The campuses will then decide how to move forward in the fall semester.

It will likely smooth MnSCU’s path at the state Capitol this year. Gov. Mark Dayton in January left additional funding for the system out of his budget proposal to jolt the warring parties back into communication, though he’s since said he’ll recommend extra dollars for MnSCU.

“We’re optimistic that what we’ve come up with will satisfy his request for an agreement,” Lindstrom said.

House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee Chairman Rep. Bud Nornes said he thinks faculty and administrators would have reached an agreement without Dayton’s not-so-subtle nudge. But Tuesday’s announcement removes a distraction and lets students get back to learning, the Fergus Falls Republican said.

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