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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published May 01 2011

Higher Education Notebook: MSCTC named among top 10 percent of community colleges

Minnesota State Community and Technical College is among the top 10 percent of community colleges in the country, according to the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program.

MSCTC was one of 120 colleges selected to compete for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which will award $1 million in prize money.

MSCTC President Ann Valentine called it a “high honor” for the college to be selected out of the approximately 1,100 community colleges in the country.

The Aspen Institute selected the 120 colleges by analyzing information reported by all colleges, such as graduation rates, retention rates and the performance of minority students.

MSCTC and the other 119 colleges will now apply for the top prize. Eight to 10 finalists will be named in September. A grand-prize winner and two to three runner-ups will be announced in December.

Valentine said MSCTC’s application will emphasize the college’s strong programs, such as efforts to retain underrepresented students.

“We do have some distinctive programming that we’re very proud of across the entire college, so we’re pretty enthused about making application,” she said.

MSCTC has campuses in Moorhead, Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes and Wadena. It was one of four Minnesota community colleges recognized by Aspen Institute. North Dakota did not have a community college on the list.

Unfunded initiatives

Two major initiatives for the North Dakota University System were not funded last week in the Legislature’s final budget, but that doesn’t mean they won’t move forward.

Legislators did not approve a request of about $870,000 for campus mental health services. The bulk of the money would have added a full-time mental health counselor at campuses that don’t have one.

Chancellor Bill Goetz said even though the funding request wasn’t approved, he plans to have discussions with campus officials on how mental health services can be addressed in at least a minimal way.

“Not addressing it, I think, is failing on a responsibility to a need that we have on every single campus,” Goetz said.

The Legislature also did not include about $5 million that was in Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s budget recommendation for performance funding. Those dollars would have been allocated to campuses based on how they perform on certain measures.

The state Board of Higher Education is already making progress toward looking at a different funding model and will continue working on performance funding, Goetz said.

“The concept is something the board feels strongly about and I anticipate that we will continue to work in that area,” Goetz said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590 or adalrymple@forumcomm.com