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Metro State University bests 400 higher education institutions, wins NSA grant to build and operate much-needed small business cybersecurity clinic

Posted August 9, 2023

students and a faculty member work together in a computer lab

$1.45 million grant from the National Security Agency, one of just three awarded nationwide, enables Metro State to help Minnesota small businesses prevent, detect and respond to cyberattacks

SAINT PAUL, Minn.—Metro State University, the Twin Cities’ nationally recognized urban university, has been awarded one of just three newly created grants from the National Security Agency’s (NSA) National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity to establish the Metro State University Cybersecurity Clinic, a pilot program to help protect small businesses, nonprofits, K–12 schools, and local government entities from cyberattacks.

The $1.45 million grant (H98230-23-1-0077) will allow Metro State to provide free or low-cost cybersecurity services to organizations that face increased cyberthreats but lack the resources to mitigate them. These services will include assessing threat vulnerability, developing threat defense strategies, and providing threat mitigation guidance. The clinic will be operated by students enrolled in Metro State’s cybersecurity bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, providing them with an opportunity for real-world, client-focused, hands-on experience designed to increase their cybersecurity expertise, effectiveness and employability.

According to Kyle Swanson, dean of Metro State’s College of Sciences, which includes the university’s Computer Science and Cybersecurity programs, the NSA funding will empower Metro State to uniquely address two pressing societal needs—the need to protect Minnesota’s small business community and, as such, the state’s economy and the need to develop a highly skilled future workforce to fill anticipated cybersecurity job openings.

“Small businesses make up 99.5% of all businesses in Minnesota, and estimates suggest that 60% of small businesses hit with a cyberattack will go out of business within six months. So even just a fraction of Minnesota’s small businesses falling victim to such an attack could cripple Minnesota’s economy. But with this funding, Metro State will help protect the most vulnerable organizations in our state and help prevent the potential for a financial fall out,” he said.

“Additionally, we anticipate the number of cybersecurity job openings in Minnesota will grow by nearly 30% over the next decade. Now, Metro State will be even better positioned to help fill those openings by ensuring our students have the most technically advanced cybersecurity education as well as unprecedented client-based experience.”

Metro State is the only Twin Cities university to offer comprehensive programming in cybersecurity, including a cybersecurity bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in cyber operations, and an accelerated combined bachelor’s and master’s program in cybersecurity operations. The university has been recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (NCAE-CD) four times running. Created by the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the NCAE-CD Program identifies and honors universities that offer bachelor’s and graduate degree programs that complete in-depth assessments and meet rigorous cyber defense requirements.

“This NSA grant will allow Metro State to further fulfill its vision to engage, foster and support the underserved individuals and businesses in the Twin Cities and the greater metropolitan area,” said Swanson, referencing the schools’ Community Engage Initiative. “It will also solidify our position as Minnesota’s cybersecurity authority and advance our national reputation for providing an innovative interdisciplinary cybersecurity curriculum.”

The Metro State University Cybersecurity Clinic, which is expected to open in mid-2024, will be located at 809 East Seventh Street in Saint Paul, Minn. Upon opening, Metro State will share details on qualification guidelines for organizations wishing to participate in the clinic.

About Metro State University
Founded in 1971, Metro State University, a member of Minnesota State, is the Twin Cities’ public, urban, comprehensive state university providing lifelong learning and competitive academic and professional degree programs at the bachelor, master and doctoral levels. The university offers more than 60 undergraduate programs and more than 25 graduate degrees. Metro State ranks 22nd in the nation and first in Minnesota on CollegeNet’s Social Mobility Index, which measures colleges’ and universities’ success in elevating students from low-income strata into the middle class within five years of graduation.



Patty Gibbs
For Metro State University