A time of celebration, a time for action

BY BARBARA MCDONALD
GUEST COLUMNIST

Barbara McDonald, President of North Hennepin Community College
Barbara McDonald, President of North Hennepin Community College

This is an exciting time for all of us at North Hennepin Community College as we send off 1,000 graduating students, many of whom celebrated with us at our NHCC Commencement Ceremony on May 10. What a night of celebration and success, against all odds and circumstances, our students excel and achieve thanks to the education they have received at your community college.
After the ceremony, I love asking our graduates about their plans for the future. Many report they will be transferring to four-year universities to pursue a bachelor’s degree, some of them staying right here on campus to obtain their bachelor’s through our University Center! Others are transitioning right into the workforce to serve our great communities. These pathways illustrate the opportunities our students have because they have had access to NHCC – we offer an extraordinary education at an exceptional value. We are an education destination, a stepping-stone to a bright future!
Yet while we strive to deliver on our mission of engaging students and changing lives, support of our state colleges and universities has decreased dramatically over the years. Between 1995 and 2015, Minnesota’s investment declined at a rate that is twice the national average: 29 percent vs. 14 percent.
Did you know, for example, that Minnesota spends 25 percent less than the national average on our colleges and 24 percent less than the national average on our state universities? In 2002, the state provided 66.3 percent of the cost of a student’s education, and this decreased to a low of 39 percent in 2013. With the governor’s help these past years, the state share has increased to 47 percent. Full support of the Minnesota State request, which includes all 30 community and technical colleges and seven state universities, would move us to 51 percent.
In addition to funding cuts, tuition at our state institutions remains frozen at the same rates as the 2015-16 academic year, and in fact have decreased by 1 percent from the 2015-16 academic year at our colleges. The same formula is being proposed in the current higher education omnibus this session for the next biennium. Because our only two revenue streams are state appropriation and tuition, our state colleges and universities are under tremendous financial pressure. Our ability to offer the promise of access and opportunity is gravely threatened.
Over the past several months, I’ve shared with you how North Hennepin Community College lives its mission through a variety of ways – innovative classroom instruction, partnerships with business, community and four-year universities, bachelor degree programs on campus via the University Center, and additional resources to serve students’ non-academic needs including a health clinic, food cupboard, and multicultural opportunities.
At the same time, we practice fiscal responsibility and stewardship because we take your investment very seriously. But support is critical. As the legislative session moves forward in the coming days, I encourage you to take action. Time is of the essence. Reach out to your local representatives to express your support for North Hennepin Community College and share your perspective on how this asset affects you and your community! Thank you for your support, we are proud to be a part of your community!

Barbara McDonald is President of North Hennepin Community College.