Colleges Send Message To Lawmakers

Posted at: 02/14/2013 6:39 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- The idea was to read it, sign it and pass it along.

Riverland Community College has shared an e-mail with community members, hoping they'll add their names to it and pass it along to state lawmakers.

"You really want to encourage people to go to school," said Riverland student senate president Brandon Jorgenson.

But with Minnesota lawmakers dealing with deficits that run into the billions of dollars:

"In the past five years Riverland has lost $3.3 million in funding," Brandon Jorgenson told us.

It wasn't long ago that students would pay about 30 percent of the cost of taking courses at Riverland.

"The state would pick up the other 70 percent, and today that's the opposite," said interim Riverland vice president Mary Davenport. “It prohibits some students from ever attending college."

So Riverland has asked lawmakers to think long-term.

"Aa community college education is the engine that drives the workforce in Minnesota," Riverland’s Dr. Mary Davenport said.

“We can't look at the small picture ... you've got to look at the bigger picture, what will happen in a few years," added student senate president Brandon Jorgenson.

Today, colleges are relying more heavily on business to make up for the loss in state revenue.

"Employers can target scholarship funds to students in manufacturing or in health care fields, and that really is a supplement that we haven't had to go to in the past," Dr. Mary Davenport told us.

And when college students rallied at the state capitol this week, they had a message for lawmakers:

"We can't keep cutting it ... it's our biggest area where future revenue will come from,"  second year student Brandon Jorgenson said.

"And the outcome is opportunities for employment, opportunities for a skilled, qualified workforce," added Riverland’s Mary Davenport.

And from student senate president Brandon Jorgenson: "It's a very good investment for lawmakers."