Ask the Minnesota State Legislature to Support Our Students
Red Wing Republican-Eagle
Published Dec. 31, 2016
Commentary by Dr. Dorothy Duran, President
Minnesota State College Southeast
At Minnesota State College Southeast, we focus on student success every day. But especially for students who face extreme financial hardship, success in higher education is a tremendous challenge.
Consider one such student. At only 19 years old, she is her family's primary breadwinner. Other college students expect their parents to cover the cost of tuition, dormitory housing, a meal plan, and a car. Meanwhile, she is balancing the rigors of a full college course load with full time work, because her family counts on her income for rent and groceries. When it comes down to getting to class or picking up an extra shift at her job, sometimes she has to work the extra hours just to make ends meet.
Another student's mother has cancer. He drives her to appointments and stays home with her when she's desperately ill. He has become a surrogate parent to his younger brother and sister, taking them to extra-curricular activities and dealing with issues that come up at their elementary school. Due to the stress, his grades are dropping and he struggles to stay in college. Just one unexpected event can push him over the edge into dropping a class or withdrawing altogether.
These are students who are looking to create a better future for themselves and their families. Education is key not only to their success, but also to the betterment of our wider community.
As a member of Minnesota State, MSC Southeast is one of 37 colleges and universities that serve more low-income students than all of the other higher education options in Minnesota -- combined. The state legislative session will convene on January 3, 2017, and budget request proposed by Minnesota State includes funding that will impact MSC Southeast and the wider community.
Student financial need is increasingly critical: Across Minnesota State, 59% of students received financial aid (including loans) in 2016, up from 54% in 2007. At Minnesota State College Southeast, the figure is even higher -- more than 71% of our students received financial aid in 2016.
Student Incentive Grants
Minnesota State is asking for funding for student incentive grants that will move more students to program completion. For students like ours, a student incentive grant of only $500 could make the difference between staying in college and putting education on hold. Grants like these help with miscellaneous costs, especially books and tools that financial aid might not cover at the beginning of the school year. Unexpected issues like car repairs, sudden medical costs, or covering extra childcare hours could be addressed with an incentive grant.
MSC Southeast offers "Check & Connect," a program geared to the needs of at-risk students. Check & Connect coaches reach out to help them find solutions for obstacles to their success. Our coaches report that having access to incentive grants would make a real and immediate impact for our students.
Minnesota State is also seeking funding to support Transfer Pathways scholarship incentive grants for students who complete a two-year degree at a Minnesota State college and transfer into a related bachelor's degree program at a Minnesota State university. As many in our community already know, Minnesota State College Southeast recently expanded its mission to include the Associate of Arts degree, which enhances transfer opportunities for our students.
Transfer Pathways will provide more specific options for our students to securely transfer to a Minnesota State university major degree program on equal grounds as other university students, with no loss of time or academic credit. Current Transfer Pathways under development at MSC Southeast include psychology and business majors.
Such student incentive grants would be targeted to help our students advance and succeed. This proposal could benefit 20,000 students across the state in its first year.
Need for new system-wide technology
The Minnesota State budget request also includes funding to support ISRS Next Gen, a mission critical, multi-year technology infrastructure project to replace an out-of-date enterprise technology system. While upgrading technology occurs behind the scenes, this new system will substantially improve the student experience. And if the budget request is fully funded, Minnesota State colleges and universities are committed to holding the line on tuition, continuing the trend of freezing or lowering tuition in recent years.
Minnesota State's budget request directly benefits our college, our students, and our community. We urge you to contact your legislators to let them know that you support Minnesota State College Southeast and our students!