State funding is a return on investment we can all be proud of

BY BARBARA MCDONALD

GUEST COLUMNIST

It’s the middle of March, and signs of spring are everywhere – spring breaks, milder weather, and daylight savings to

Barbara McDonald is president of North Hennepin Community College.
Barbara McDonald is president of North Hennepin Community College.

name a few. It also marks the halfway mark of the Minnesota legislative session. As a member of the 30 colleges and seven state universities that make up Minnesota State, we are collectively sharing student success stories with our elected representatives to reiterate the need for state funding. Did you know eight out of 10 Minnesota State graduates stay in Minnesota to work? That is a return on investment we can all be proud of.
On March 3, we held an open house for legislators to visit campus and hear from our students, faculty and staff members about their successes and needs moving forward. A big thank you to Sen. John Hoffman, Sen. Jerry Newton, and Rep. Lyndon Carlson who were able to join us NHCC highlighted success stories in the areas of partnership, developmental education and support for students.
One of the most visible partnership success stories is NHCC’s University Center offering 12 bachelor’s degrees through major universities on campus, a real need in the northwest metro as witnessed by the 300 students currently enrolled in bachelor degree programs. By fall 2017, that number will grow to 16. NHCC also collaborates with high schools delivering post-secondary enrollment options to 600 students each fall and spring semester. One of the partnerships I highlighted last month are student internships with local businesses.
Some of the most impactful stories shared with our elected officials were those of our students. One student shared his educational journey after graduating from Robbinsdale Cooper High School in 2009. Following graduation, he attended a four-year university for one year. Rather than return to the university, he joined the workforce. In 2015, he decided to pursue a college degree from NHCC. He credits the academic developmental courses (college readiness skills) for his success at NHCC.
While some students and lawmakers might see these courses as unnecessary, this student’s story illustrates how NHCC’s streamlined academic developmental courses removed barriers and accelerated educational success. He will complete his Associate of Arts degree in the summer and transfer to a four-year university in the fall.
Students also highlighted new resources at the college, including a student health clinic operated by Fairview Clinics that includes a variety of services with no out-of-pocket costs. Prior to the on-campus health clinic, some students had to choose between getting treatment for a health-related issue and putting food on the table that day.
Another student who moved to the United States 10 years ago said he appreciates the numerous diversity initiatives on campus. Students also shared their excitement for the proposed Metro Blue Line Extension light rail that would create affordable and accessible transportation to the college.
Our students are our future, and the support we receive through the Minnesota State legislative request is critical to delivering an engaged and employed citizenry. The $178 million in new funding over the biennium will help Minnesota State meet the state’s talent needs, reduce economic and racial disparities, improve student success, protect access and affordability and support the financial health of every campus. The budget request directly benefits NHCC, our students and our community. It is worth your support.

Barbara McDonald is president of North Hennepin Community College.