Hundreds of college-bound students across Minnesota now have the opportunity to be awarded workforce development scholarships worth $2,500 or more that will help them launch a career in a high-demand occupation in Minnesota. These scholarships were made possible by a $7 million appropriation from the Legislature after a successful pilot program stemming from the 2017 legislative session that initially awarded $1 million in scholarships in the 2018-2019 academic year.
The scholarships are for students pursuing careers within advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care services, information technology, early childhood education, and transportation at any of the 30 state colleges of Minnesota State.
“As I have traveled around the state, a theme that I consistently hear from employers is that Minnesota is facing a critical shortage of workers with the skills needed for high-demand occupations,” said Devinder Malhotra, chancellor of Minnesota State. “Workforce Development Scholarships have proven to be an effective tool for attracting students into these fields and helping them find a path towards a satisfying and well-paying career. We are grateful to the Legislature and the Governor for this opportunity, and we look forward to awarding these scholarships to help meet Minnesota’s workforce needs.”
PILOT PROGRAM: HUNDREDS OF SCHOLARSHIPS AWARDED
In the 2018-2019 academic year, nearly 400 Workforce Development Scholarships of $2,500 were awarded to students entering Minnesota State colleges as part of a pilot program funded by a $1 million appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature during the 2017 session. The scholarships were made available to new students entering associate degree, diploma, or certificate programs in high-demand sectors of Minnesota’s economy at any of the 30 Minnesota State community and technical colleges. The qualifying programs included advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care, and information technology. The scholarships covered approximately half the cost of tuition and fees for the required credits.
As one sign of the impact these scholarships can have: many colleges raised additional funds from private sources to supplement the funds provided by the Legislature. For example, the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association donated $30,000 to support students in the manufacturing industry, and Riverland Community College secured matches from business partners totaling $45,000.
OUTCOME OF THE 2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
The legislation that came out of the 2019 legislative session substantially expands the $1 million pilot program by making $2 million available for FY2020 and a total of $6 million for FY2021. With the additional funding, the number of available scholarships will increase to an estimated 668 in FY2020.
The legislation also expanded the program to include two additional programs of study: early childhood education and transportation.
Also, the seven Minnesota State universities will be eligible to award scholarships for FY2021 to students who received scholarships from a Minnesota State college and transfer into a corresponding bachelor’s program.
Students who were awarded a scholarship for Fall 2018 semester are eligible to apply again if they have completed two academic terms with a minimum of nine credits each and have maintained a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher.
SCHOLARSHIPS ATTRACT THOSE NOT CONSIDERING COLLEGE
The scholarships are also attracting interest from students who were not previously considering college. “We have had inquiries from several students who didn’t think college was an option,” said Joe Mulford, president of Pine Technical and Community College (PTCC). “This scholarship helped them realize that college can be affordable, and what an important step it is in getting started in a career.” PTCC awarded one scholarship to each of the 14 high schools in its service area, and has supplemented each scholarship with $1,000 in contributions from those communities so that each scholarship has a value of $3,500.
SCHOLARSHIPS ARE DESIGNED TO ENCOURAGE STUDENT SUCCESS
The scholarships also encourage student success, according to Joy Bodin, vice president of Academic and Student Affairs at Central Lakes College. “These scholarships require students to be enrolled for at least nine credits per semester,” said Bodin, “and this makes it more likely that they will successfully complete their program compared to students who take only one or two courses.”
BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY PARTNERS ARE CONTRIBUTING
Adding to the initial funding from the Legislature, colleges and their foundations are leveraging private contributions from business, industry, and other partners to increase the value of the scholarships. For example, Century College increased each scholarship to $3,000 using funds contributed by the Century College Foundation, the Vadnais Heights Economic Development Corporation, Reell Precision Manufacturing Corporation, and the White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce. Four partners of St. Cloud Technical & Community College, including C4 Welding, Park Industries, Rotochopper, and Talon Innovations, showed their commitment to meeting workforce shortages by supplementing the scholarships to $3,500 and by making additional contributions to other scholarships.
SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE NOW
Dozens of scholarships are still available for Fall 2019. Interested students should contact the admissions or financial aid office at Minnesota State colleges to learn more about these or other scholarship and financial aid opportunities. Additional information is available at http://minnstate.edu/stories/wds.