MnSCU Trustee Embarks on 2,101-mile "Scholarship Challenge"

Posted: May 14, 2002

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@so.mnscu.edu, 651-201-1426

Bike Tour will Raise Money, Visibility for Needs of Part-time Students

In a quest to raise scholarship money for a group of students he says are left out of Minnesota's financial aid program, Robert Erickson, trustee for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, today began a 2,101-mile solo bicycle tour of the system's 53 campuses.

Erickson expects to complete the bicycle tour by July 5 with enough donations to establish a new scholarship program for part-time students, who he says are typically older and struggle to balance family and work with their studies. He rolled south out of the Normandale Community College parking lot and will visit four campuses before spending tonight in Red Wing.

"I have heard one too many personal stories from older, part-time students, struggling to stay in school, striving to better themselves against some daunting odds," said Erickson. "State funding for higher education has not kept pace, tuition increases have been significant and Minnesota's financial aid program offers little help to part-time working adults. This ride is my small personal effort to help."

Donning a neon yellow wind-breaker he received from Chancellor James H. McCormick at the send-off, Erickson said he hopes his trek increases the visibility of the needs of the growing part-time student population who want to improve their lives.

He will pass out pledge cards seeking sponsors for his "Scholarship Challenge." This web page will track his progress and include information on how to contribute to the new scholarship program serving part-time non-traditional students. The program is being established with the Northstar State Colleges and Universities Foundation, an umbrella organization serving all 34 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities serve 225,000 students annually in credit-based courses, and about 44 percent are enrolled part-time. About one-third of students attending Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are 25 and older.

Erickson understands the complex financial workings of Minnesota's public higher education systems. Before his appointment in 1996 to the MnSCU Board of Trustees where he chairs the finance and facilities committee, Erickson served as senior vice president for finance and operations for the University of Minnesota from 1991 to 1995. Prior to this, he worked as a senior executive for SuperValu for 16 years. He earned a bachelor's and a master's degree from the University of Minnesota.

Erickson grew up in Slayton, Minn., and says he will enjoy pedaling the 50- to 120-mile days he has planned crisscrossing his home state. Having bicycled on four continents and completing rides from the Twin Cities to New Orleans and from coast to coast, he expects to achieve his goal. Erickson is funding the trip himself.

Early in his six-year term on the Board of Trustees, Erickson visited all of the 53 campuses by car, many of them twice, to examine facilities at each institution to determine MnSCU's capital bonding priorities. He says this trip will be different.

"This time, I hope to meet more students," said Erickson. "We must keep higher education accessible and within reach for working adults who need it to survive in a changing economy. I'm taking that story across Minnesota"

 


Minnesota's 31 state community and technical colleges, and universities serve more than 430,000 students across the state.