One of the biggest challenges that keeps a college or university president up at night is affordability. As we strive to deliver high quality education, how do we ensure that a Southeast Tech or Winona State education is within reach of those we serve?
Our budgets are challenged on many fronts. Our resources are finite. We are constantly looking for ways to preserve the distinct and excellent experiences our campuses offer and drive every dollar we can toward the classroom. One such strategy is to share services between Winona State University and Southeast Tech. Through collaboration we can conserve our resources and ensure that more dollars go directly to serve students. This mutually beneficial relationship does not mean we will share faculty or curricula–these are the very things that make us who we are and will remain separate. What this does mean is that functions students rarely see or functions where one institution has extra capacity can be shared by the two institutions, lowering expenses for each of us and providing margins in our budgets that can be reinvested in student learning.
For example, Winona State has a top-notch Campus Security force that helps create a safe and healthy learning environment, so why not make it available to Southeast Tech? Our two campuses are just three miles apart, so security officials can respond swiftly to needs at either location. Sharing Campus Security services with Southeast Tech in no way dilutes Winona State’s excellence and distinctiveness. By the same token, this collaboration in no way inhibits Southeast Tech’s quality and uniqueness. Institutional research is another area in which we collaborate, leveraging Winona State’s exemplary research department to facilitate better decision-making at Southeast Tech.
We also share student services where feasible. Thanks to investments from students, the State of Minnesota and local philanthropists, Winona State University has a world-class Integrated Wellness Complex. Sharing the IWC with Southeast Tech students is more practical than building a second wellness facility, and the IWC provides services beyond fitness, including counseling, wellness services and a full pharmacy, for both WSU and Southeast Tech students. And the relationship goes both ways, with Southeast Tech sharing use of its rugby field on the Homer Road campus for the nationally ranked teams of Winona State.
Our newest approach to sharing services is our collaborative approach to Human Resources. Some aspects of HR need to be campus-based, such as expertise in the bargaining unit contracts, which differ somewhat between Southeast Tech and Winona State. Other functions can be shared, like benefit coordination. This type of sharing helps each of us improve workplace culture and fiscal security.
Collaboration is not about merging or aligning the two campuses. The search for a new president of Southeast Tech has already begun. Southeast Tech and Winona State will remain separate institutions, and the core attributes that define us will be preserved. However, we believe our distinctive attributes can be enhanced through shared services where appropriate. The savings we realize allow us to direct more dollars to our students.
In the end, the long-standing collaborative relationship between Southeast Technical and Winona State University has created a positive culture of leveraging state appropriations and tuition dollars to maximize our ability to deliver a high quality educational experience. These services aren’t the only thing we share. We also share a responsibility to be good stewards of the public and private support we receive, and to help our students get the best education possible. As partners, Southeast Tech and Winona State are building excellence and optimizing resources.
Jim Johnson is president of Minnesota State College – Southeast Technical. Scott Olson is president of Winona State University.