Former Minnesota State Colleges and Universities trustee to spend 29 days biking for bucks for part-time college students
On Monday morning, Aug. 25, as students start classes at most Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Robert O. Erickson will head off to college on his bicycle to visit each of the system's campuses. Departing at 8:30 a.m. from Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids, Erickson will pedal 2,300 miles to raise scholarship money for part-time students and to make the case for changing Minnesota's financial aid program to recognize the needs of part-time students.
"Part-time students will be hardest hit by tuition increases this fall because they typically don't qualify for financial aid," Erickson said. "These students don't carry a full load of classes because they are often juggling family, work and other obligations. Adjustments to Minnesota's 20-year-old financial aid program are long overdue."
Last year, Erickson completed the same tour and raised $79,000 in scholarships for part-time adult students at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
As a former board member and chair of the finance and facilities committee of the Board of Trustees for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, Erickson understands the complex financial workings of Minnesota's public higher education systems. He served as senior vice president for finance and operations for the University of Minnesota from 1991 to 1995 and worked as a senior executive for SuperValu for 16 years. Erickson, 57, currently serves on the board of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Foundation and is again funding the trip at his own expense.
Pedaling from campus to campus in his neon yellow gear emblazoned with "Minnesota State Colleges and Universities," Erickson will solicit donations for his scholarship challenge. Contributions may be designated to individual colleges and universities or to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Foundation, where they will be applied entirely to student scholarships.
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities serve 235,000 students annually in credit-based courses and 45 percent are enrolled part-time. The average age of part-time students is 30.
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Chancellor James H. McCormick, Anoka-Ramsey Community College President Patrick Johns and students will be on hand at the Coon Rapids campus to wish Erickson well Monday morning as he heads north to the Cambridge campus of Anoka-Ramsey Community College, then to Pine Technical College in Pine City.
"Minnesota has everything to gain by helping these hard-working, enterprising students get an education," Erickson said. "This state has long valued higher education, but the definition and the demographics of our college students are changing, and we're currently leaving too many people behind."