Although Minnesota made headlines in October 2012 when it temporarily banned the open courseware site Coursera due to an outdated law, Minnesota heavily supports online institutions. In fact, there are about 150 registered online schools in Minnesota. Under Minnesota law, all institutions that offer online courses must register with the state so that officials can investigate the legitimacy and quality of the school. Earlier in 2012, the governor of Minnesota also signed a law “strongly encouraging” all high school students to complete an online class before graduation so that they could learn to operate in an increasingly technological world. Other initiatives the state has set in place to promote a higher quality of both traditional and online post secondary education include the following.
Higher Learning Initiatives
Minnesota Online is a search tool for the hundreds of online degrees, certificates, and courses offered by Minnesota’s 31 public and tribal colleges and universities. It allows students to search and review courses and programs, and provides student support such as pre-admissions planning and advising. It also provides service and training programs for businesses and job-seekers.
College Access Grant
In 2012, Minnesota was awarded a $1.56 million federal College Access Challenge Grant. The grant will be used to encourage college readiness and ideally increase the number of low-income students in post secondary institutions. Funds will be directly used to assist school career counselors and parents so that students can have access to the information they need to get into a college of their choice, whether that’s a traditional or online school in Minnesota. Minnesota has won this grant every year since 2007.
GEAR UP: Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness
Similar to the College Access Grant, GEAR UP is a national program designed to help increase college preparedness and college success so that low-income students can pursue a post secondary education. It was created in 1995 in response to a study that emphasized providing students and parents with college information from an early age. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education is the state grantee for GEAR UP. States compete for six-year matching grants through the federal program.
Online Leaning Initiative
As early as 2008, the governor of Minnesota issued a huge push for online education when he announced his goal to have 25% of all University of Minnesota system credits to be earned through an online course by 2015. To help achieve this goal, the system board has promised to improve student access and support for online courses as well as highlight the cost-benefits of attending an online program on all of its official sites.