Posted: December 20, 2007

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system has established three college access and opportunity centers aimed at improving high school graduation and college participation rates among students of color and other underrepresented groups, system officials said today.

The centers are at St. Cloud State University, Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls, and Century College in White Bear Lake together with Inver Hills Community College in Inver Grove Heights. Each center has partnerships with K-12 school districts in their areas.

The centers will focus on improving students' college readiness by developing rigorous college-preparatory and college-level courses, by advising students and their parents on education and career paths and by providing professional development for K-12 teachers.

"I believe these centers will be a welcome booster shot for our K-12 partners in their desire to see more students from traditionally underrepresented groups graduated from high school and ready to succeed in college," said Chancellor James H. McCormick. "The state's future economic vitality depends on continuing to have a skilled and educated workforce. Given Minnesota's increasingly diverse population, this drive will become even more critical as the well-educated baby boomers retire and more jobs demand higher levels of educational attainment."

Historically, American Indian, black and Hispanic students have had significantly lower high school graduation rates than white and Asian students. In 2006, for example, high school graduation rates for Minnesota's American Indian, black and Hispanic students were from 19 to 29 percentage points lower than for whites and Asians, according to the Minnesota State Department of Education. These underrepresented groups also have significantly lower rates of college participation.

The centers are part of a broader Board of Trustees initiative to expand access to higher education. In the current biennium, the board has allocated an additional $22 million in state funds for recruiting and retaining more underrepresented students.

"We are grateful that the Legislature provided the necessary funding for building on and expanding the programs and services that we already offer to increase access and opportunity," said Linda Baer, the system's senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. "With these centers, we will reach more students and apply the best practices that we know make a difference."

The centers, which are expected to serve more than 2,000 students and several hundred parents and families in the first year, received grants totaling $3.4 million from the system office. The grants were awarded on a competitive basis. In addition, the participating colleges and universities are providing their own resources and funds. Here is more information about the three grants.

St. Cloud State University will receive $1.1 million for a center that will use innovative and culturally sensitive approaches to improve high school graduation rates among underrepresented students in grades 8 through 12 attending St. Cloud School District 742. Working with St. Cloud Technical College, students will be recruited and assigned to in-school academic advising teams that will assess their academic skills and advise and support them on planning educational paths to careers.

Century College and Inver Hills Community College will receive $1.2 million for a collaborative center that will focus on developing rigorous academic programs and support services, creating strong parental and family participation, enhancing professional development of teachers and evaluating program results.

Minnesota State Community and Technical College will receive $1.1 million for a center that will use interactive technologies to build on college readiness programs in English and math. The project will provide underrepresented high school students the academic skills and support systems they need to succeed in rigorous college-preparatory. Summer academic experiences will be provided in partnership with Minnesota State University Moorhead and the White Earth Tribal College. This support will help participating students to graduate from secondary schools and enroll in two- and four-year colleges.