Posted: January 12, 2009
Contact: Doug Anderson, firstname.lastname@example.org, 651-201-1426
In light of Minnesota’s rapidly diversifying population, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system is taking additional steps to encourage more students of color and low-income students to attend college.
A new brochure, Make college a part of your future, a related wall poster and Web site, yesyoucan.mnscu.edu, are intended to answer common questions about college. The materials and Web site are available in English and eight other languages – Dakota, French, Hmong, Ojibwe, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese.
“We cannot afford to leave anyone on the sidelines,” said Chancellor James H. McCormick. “We must raise the educational attainment of groups that traditionally have not attended college in large numbers. Many of them are new immigrants whose families haven’t fully mastered the English language. Minnesota’s employers – even with the current economic downturn – must have a skilled workforce when the economy rebounds here and abroad.”
School counselors are being encouraged to distribute brochures and hang posters to attract attention. And advertisements featuring Minnesota State Colleges and Universities students are being posted in buses and light rail cars in the Twin Cities metropolitan area and in various news outlets.
The materials and Web site are intended primarily to help students in 8th through 10th grades, along with their parents and mentors, learn more about the benefits of attending college and encourage them to prepare for college.
Students from non-English speaking backgrounds often are uncertain about whether they can afford college and will fit into college life because they are the first in their families to go to college in this country, said Whitney Harris, the system’s executive director of diversity and multiculturalism. He noted that up to 70 different languages are spoken on some campuses.
“By reaching out more vigorously to potential students and their families in their native languages, we hope they will understand that they are welcome on our campuses and that they can succeed in college programs,” Harris said. “Although classes are conducted in English, college and university staffs can help students find English language resources.”
The system’s Access and Opportunity Centers, based at St. Cloud State University, Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Century College and Inver Hills Community College, also are at work on improving students' college readiness by developing college-preparatory programs and college-level courses, advising students and their parents on education and career paths and providing professional development for K-12 teachers.
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 groups also have lower rates of college participation.
At the same time, the shrinking pool of high school graduates and the aging population point to a shortage of qualified workers for the state’s employers, according to State Demographer Tom Gillaspy. Already, more than a fifth of many important occupation groups, such as registered nurses, pharmacists, secondary teachers, materials and biomedical engineers, truck drivers, and tool and die makers, are over age 55, he said. Improving educational attainment in underrepresented groups can help fill that gap.