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Higher Education Disparities Threaten Minnesota's Future Workforce Preparedness



Contact: Sandy Connolly, Director of Communications
Office of Higher Education
(651) 259-3902

St. Paul, MN -- While Minnesota remains one of the most highly educated states in the country, deep attainment disparities exist between White students and students of color, gaps that could increase unless addressed in a significant way. According to the report, attainment rates vary by race and ethnicity from 21 percent for American Indian students to 63 percent for Asian Minnesotans. Overall, 58 percent of Minnesotans age 25-44 in 2008 - 2012 have attained a postsecondary certificate or higher. No Minnesota group is currently attaining the goal of 70 percent.

"These findings underscore the urgent need to make improvements now, so our higher education system works for all Minnesotans," said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. "Our challenge is to tear down the barriers that keep students from succeeding. This is important for Minnesota's talented students, and it's also important for the future of Minnesota's economy. We can't be complacent."

The new report, Educating for the Future, fulfills a 2015 legislative mandate associated with the Minnesota Legislature setting a target of 70 percent of Minnesota adults between the ages of 25 and 44 to have attained a postsecondary certificate or degree by 2025. The report was produced in collaboration by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE), the Minnesota State Demographic Center and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU).

Changing demographics increase the challenge of reaching the 70 percent attainment goal. By 2035, it is projected that one out of every four Minnesotans will be a person of color, a population that has not been adequately served within Minnesota's educational system. According to the report, students of color graduate from high school at a lower rate than White students, enroll in college at lower rates and graduate at lower rates.

"The path to lessening Minnesota's racial income gaps runs through our educational system, beginning with Pre-K and all the way through postsecondary," said Pogemiller. "This report indicates that unless dramatic action is taken, our state could continue to lose ground in educational attainment for students of color."

According to the report, in order to meet the educational attainment goal of 70 percent for all racial and ethnic groups, Minnesota needs an estimated 168,800 additional individuals age 25 to 44 to complete their first educational credential.

"This equates to tripling the number of Hispanic Minnesotans obtaining a certificate or degree by 2025, and doubling the number of Black Minnesotans obtaining a certificate or degree," said Pogemiller. "Our state's future economic prosperity and the well-being of nearly one-fourth of our population depends on the actions we take over the next few years."

The report cites targeted attention, resources and stakeholder involvement as three key strategies for increasing educational attainment for all Minnesotans.

As part of their proposed package to eliminate economic disparities and create opportunities for Minnesotans of color, Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith have proposed an investment of $20 million in Equity and Opportunity grants, focused on research based strategies aimed to increase completion at Minnesota colleges, especially at MnSCU two-year colleges, which enroll a higher number of students of color.

Work around the attainment goal is also being done by the Attainment Goals Stakeholder group, which meets monthly. Participants include postsecondary institution leaders, community organizations, republican and democratic legislators, students and state agencies. The advisory group informs OHE and each other on best strategies for meeting the state's attainment goal.

Read the full report.

For more information or questions on the report, contact Sandy Connolly at 651-259-3902 or by email at

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