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UMN enrollment plan calls for Twin Cities rejects to help fill outstate campuses

MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota says students who can't get into its increasingly selective Twin Cities flagship will be steered to the four coordinate campuses as the system looks to grow by 3,000 undergraduates over the next six years.

The Twin Cities campus accounts for 71 percent of the system's 44,544 degree-seeking undergraduates.

But the campuses in Duluth, Crookston, Morris and Rochester must bear 69 percent of the enrollment growth in order for the system to meet its 2024 target.

Among other strategies, university officials say they will craft application materials and rejection letters that promote all five campuses. The schools already have begun sharing their rejection lists with the other campuses earlier in the process and will do the same with wait lists.

"We must remind students that there is one University of Minnesota diploma, not five," vice provost and undergraduate dean Bob McMaster told the Board of Regents this month.

The U's flagship turns away more than 20,000 undergraduate applicants a year — about one and a half times the number of students attending the four outstate campuses. But historically, McMaster said, the campuses have viewed each other as competitors.

That's changing as the university works to develop a comprehensive strategic plan.

Barbara Keinath, interim chancellor at Crookston, said the joint enrollment planning is, in her experience, "the best example of how the campuses have worked together in any area."

The Minnesota State system is taking a similar, cooperative approach with its 30 public colleges and seven universities. They're developing new degree pathways between their two- and four-year schools, guaranteeing credits will transfer within the system and enabling students to earn four-year degrees on the two-year college campuses.

Besides cooperative marketing and information sharing, McMaster said, the University of Minnesota campuses must ramp up recruitment efforts for students of color and work with the high schools to ensure students are prepared for college.

Other enrollment strategies for the U will be building up its online course offerings, fundraising for student scholarships and paying closer attention to what employers want from their graduates.

Officials also see opportunity in the adjoining states, whose four-year public universities in 2016 enrolled nearly 5,000 more new freshmen from Minnesota than they sent to the state.

Keinath said North Dakota State University is a particularly big draw for students who might consider Crookston.

"We're behind their game now," she said.

Regent Richard Beeson suggested a major tuition cut would help Crookston compete. At the same time, he said, some of the U's in-demand colleges in the Twin Cities could afford to raise tuition.

"I think we need to take a more radical approach to pricing," he said.