INFORUM: Forum Editorial: Tri-College University great deal for students

It might be a surprise that some 35,000 students study at five college and university campuses in Fargo, Moorhead and Wahpeton, N.D. That's a significant number, not only because it represents a real commitment to higher education, but also because the students are essential to the long-term economic growth of the region. Those factors are enhanced because students on the five campuses can take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities offered by Tri-College University, a successful formal collaboration among the schools.

It's not new, having been first discussed in 1962, and formalized a few years later. What is new is the addition of two campuses to the original three. Started by Concordia College, Minnesota State University Moorhead and North Dakota State University, TCU has grown with the addition of the North Dakota State College of Science at Wahpeton and Minnesota State Community and Technical College at Moorhead. The depth and breadth of course offerings for all students in nearly every discipline is truly astounding.

Leaders of Tri-College, particularly the campus presidents, have developed a model that is student-centered, not competitive, in that individual schools don't compete for students. Rather, the attraction of easy access to courses and resources on five campuses sells itself to potential students. A student at Concordia looking for a specific course that is not available at Concordia likely can find it at MSUM, NDSU or one of the two-year technical colleges. For example, a fine arts student studying sculpture might want to master high-tech welding, and would find the course at NDSCS or M State. The same cross-pollination is readily available in nearly all academic studies.

The TCU model might not be unique in the nation, but the great success of the five-school regional program makes it different from others. Campus leaders, the business community and many policymakers have embraced the concept because it works for students. It also can provide opportunities for faculty to collaborate in ways that might not be possible without TCU.

The Tri-College University (now with five members) is growing as more and more students take advantage of its multi-campus opportunities. It was a visionary idea from the beginning and, because of the strong commitment from campus presidents, the vision is being realized every year in more and better education opportunities for students.

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