Metro State University celebrates 40 years, looks to west metro expansion

As Metropolitan State University celebrates its 40th year as a community-based institution of higher learning based in St. Paul, it’s also  looking to expand in the west metro area.

President Sue Hammersmith, speaking Thursday night at Metro State’s annual Recognizing Excellence event, said officials will be searching this summer for a site to put a major new campus in the Minneapolis suburbs.

The main Metro State campus is just east of downtown St. Paul; classroom space is also rented at satellite locations around town.

She said the new west campus likely will be in a first-tier suburb and not in Minneapolis proper. She said she hopes it will open next year.

With 11,000 students now — 2,000 graduating this year — Hammersmith said the goal is to grow to 15,000 students by 2016, when the new west campus is up and running.

She said there’s a big demand for higher education in the west metro, and Metro State, with its flexible classes that are especially convenient for  working adults, will better serve its target demographics in that part of the Twin Cities by putting a campus there.

The university also honored its donors for helping its programs grow; she said the erosion of state support in recent years has made it harder to serve its students and has hurt quality, but private support has made an important difference.

At the awards banquet, the university gave two Student Excellence Awards — to John Groh in the College of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, and to Lisa Lynch Jones in the College of Nursing and Health Services.

The St. Paul Housing Agency was honored as Community Partner of the Year; the students and faculty from the College of Nursing hold clinics and give immunizations at some of the St. Paul high-rises.

Caroline Lowe, formerly a television news reporter at WCCO-TV, was named Alumna of the Year. While working as a reporter, Lowe got a law enforcement degree from Metro State, became a licensed police officer and took vacation from the station to work as a cop at the Minnesota State Fair for several years.

She moved to a California television station last year and couldn’t attend the awards banquet.

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