UMR expects to grow, but needs funding
Pandemic is expected to prompt interest in health care fields.
University of Minnesota Rochester Lori Carrell told the system's Board of Regents that the pandemic will likely spur an interest in health careers, necessitating the hiring of more faculty, the funding of more scholarships and the expansion of existing facilities.
"The need for start-up investment is a difficult reality, particularly in this time of financial constraints," Carrell told the regents in a meeting carried on Zoom. "(University of Minnesota) President (Joan) Gabel, this board, the Legislature must balance so many competing needs. And yet, if the staged growth is to be realized, periodic investment in personnel and facilities will be necessary."
When board chairman Kendall Powell inquired about the financial costs associated with UMR's expansion, Carrell said UMR had sought $1.9 million to be spread over three years. UMR got a portion of those funds the first year, but the pandemic prompted a hiring freeze and interrupted the funding plan.
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While enrollment at many campuses has lagged or declined through the pandemic, the smaller, health care-focused school saw an 11 percent jump in enrollment in fall 2020 to 932 students.
UMR outlines three scenarios for growth under its strategic plan, depending on its rate of growth (1,000 students, 1,500 students and 2,500 students). And each one is contingent on a onetime infusion of public dollars.
The COVID-19 pandemic upended UMR's physical expansion plans, when the YMCA pulled out of a planned partnership to build a building in southwest Rochester. Looking for space, UMR announced last year a $2.5 million expansion into the former home of The Loop in downtown Rochester for a new student lounge and campus dining space.
During her presentation, Carrell noted that Two Discovery Square, a four-story, 89,000-square-foot office building under construction, will house several new tenants focused on cellular therapy, bio-manufacturing and heath care start-ups. Those businesses will present opportunities to both UMR students and graduates, she said.
Carrell said UMR has a strong record of placement with two-thirds of graduates going on to advanced studies while others enter health care fields immediately after graduation.
Rochester is one of only three communities to launch brand new campuses during this century. The others are New College of Florida and the University of California Merced.
UMR's first class of undergraduates completed their degrees in 2013. A few of them have turned 30. The alumni base is big enough that the school launched its first alumni magazine recently.
Even though UMR anticipates growth, Carrell told the board that there is still some uncertainty about how the pandemic will impact high school students' decisions regarding college.
"We don't yet know the impact of isolation and remote learning on high school students' college decisions and college student retention," Carrell said. "There are many swirling and intersecting variables: Mental health, digital divides, financial constraints and more."