WSU, Southeast Tech ahead of the curve on sharing services to save money

Working together on the bottom line
2013-10-11T00:00:00Z WSU, Southeast Tech ahead of the curve on sharing services to save moneyBy Nathan Hansen | Winona Daily News

For Winona State University president Scott Olson and Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical president Jim Johnson, collaboration isn’t a new idea.

“Collaboration works,” Olson said. “That’s a way we can put more money into the classroom and keep tuition lower.”

As the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system works through a new study on how its schools can work together better in order to curb costs and tuition, WSU and Southeast Tech have plenty to contribute to the discussion.

The two have shared services more than a decade, starting with security and telecommunication services in 2003 or so. Southeast Tech students also share the wellness center and health services resources available at WSU’s Integrated Wellness Complex, and Southeast Tech is transitioning to have WSU handle human resources for both institutions.

“It saves us money,” Johnson said. “We help support the costs of the services WSU provides. It’s a win-win.”

Johnson said much of the push for collaboration has come from years of dwindling state resources for higher education. In order to make up for that loss, Southeast Tech has consistently looked for partnerships with WSU and other institutions, as well as outside funding for new initiatives.

Combining services with WSU has resulted in real savings for the college, said Mike Kroening, Southeast Tech’s vice president for finance.

Once the transition is complete, sharing HR services with WSU is expected to save Southeast Tech $300,000 annually, he said.

All together, Kroening estimated, the college saves more than $1 million each year through partnerships.

“It’s a good chunk of money we are saving,” Johnson said. “We can drive that back into our academic programs and other things we need.”

While Johnson said he was appreciative of efforts earlier this year by the Minnesota Legislature to increase funding for higher education, he believes there will always be a need for Southeast Tech to look for ways to collaborate with WSU and other MnSCU institutions in the future.

“The big challenge is how we deliver education,” Johnson said. “There are still some big challenges we have to face.”

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