MnSCU Trustee Embarks on Final Leg of 2,101-mile "Scholarship Challenge" Bike Ride

Posted: June 20, 2002

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

Bicyclist is Raising Money, Visibility for Needs of Part-time Students

Robert Erickson, trustee for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, today pedaled north from Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids to begin the third and final leg of his 2,101-mile bike trip to raise scholarship money for part-time students.

He will visit 23 campuses in 15 days and hopes to complete the bicycle tour by July 5 with enough donations to establish a new scholarship program for a group of students he says are left out of Minnesota's financial aid program.

He will visit the Cambridge campus of Anoka-Ramsey Community College and Pine Technical College today before spending the night in Sandstone.

"Part-time students are often older and struggle to balance work, family and school," Erickson said. "This is typically a group with no disposable income, yet Minnesota offers little or no financial aid help to them. This ride is my way of helping."

Wearing a neon yellow bicycling shirt emblazoned with "Minnesota State Colleges and Universities," 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 en-route seeking sponsors for his "Scholarship Challenge." This web page tracks his progress and includes information on how to contribute to the new scholarship program. The program is being established with the Northstar State Colleges and Universities Foundation, an umbrella organization serving the 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 a 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 heads the finance and facilities committee, Erickson served as senior vice president for finance and operations for the University of Minnesota for four years. Prior to this, he worked as a senior executive for Supervalu Stores for 16 years. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Minnesota.

Erickson grew up in Slayton, Minn., and says he has enjoyed pedaling the 60- to 100-mile days 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 fully expects to complete the trip. Erickson raised $13,000 during the first half of the journey. He is funding the trip himself.

"When students are faced with a choice between staying in college or buying shoes for their children, the shoes will win every time," Erickson said. "The truth is, higher education just isn't an option for many, and this lack of opportunity has a lasting impact on families, communities and Minnesota's economy. I'm building a scholarship program for the non-traditional students who are willing to work for something better, but for whom the finances make college nearly impossible."