Lost Talent Endangers Future Growth

RCTC Interim President, Mary Davenport, Ph.D.

RCTC Interim President, Mary Davenport, Ph.D.

The year 2020 is quickly approaching and it’s estimated that three in four jobs will require some level of post-secondary training.  The word on the street is that the creation of new jobs in the Rochester area is expected to soar past 40,000 in the next 20 years.

Rochester Community and Technical College contributes over 1,000 student graduates each year to the regional workforce. That number could, and really should, be higher.  Graduates from one of the 45 campuses of Minnesota State colleges and universities tend to stay in our state for employment – as many as 85%.  However, consider that the number of high school students that leave Minnesota to attend an out-of-state institution has reached 30%. (You do the math: Minnesota has over 50,000 high school graduates each year. That means over 15,000 young people leaving the state.)  You can imagine the brain drain if those student leaving the state remain out-of-state after graduation.  The flight of human capital, especially the intellectual and technical labor opportunities deplete not only the human resources of the State, but also the homegrown talent required for the Rochester area as we address economic growth and development.

Access to affordable and quality higher education is available in Rochester, and RCTC is the gateway to a world-class education.  Achieving the dream of a higher education degree can begin when a student is still in high school.  Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) allows high school students to take college courses tuition free.  Over 1,000 students took advantage of PSEO at RCTC during the 2015-16 school year.  The cost of RCTC’s tuition, as with tuition at any Minnesota State college, is significantly lower – between one-half and one-tenth the cost — of other higher education options within the state. The combination of free tuition while in high school, and affordable tuition after, is an incredible value for families.  Yet only about 25% of Rochester John Marshall, Century and Mayo and many other SE Minnesota high school graduates attend RCTC the year after high school to pursue employment skills, technical degrees, and Liberal Arts and Science transfer degrees.

Further, under a new program announced recently by the Minnesota State system, students who complete the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum, and earn a minimum 2.0 GPA in an Associate of Arts (AA) degree from RCTC, are guaranteed admission to every one of the seven Minnesota State universities with junior year status. This new collaboration ensures that students can seamlessly and reliably transfer from Minnesota State colleges to Minnesota State universities with locations in Mankato, St. Paul, St. Cloud, Marshall, Moorhead, and Bemidji. (The only variation is Winona State, which requires a 2.5 GPA.)  RCTC is actively collaborating with our state university partners to create and prioritize additional transfer pathways that meet the needs and interests of our community.

Access to affordable and quality higher education at RCTC extends to Minnesotans of all ages, not just the recent high school student or graduate. The average age of an RCTC student is 24; and recent graduates reflect generations in their 30’s – 60’s along with those reaching their ‘70’s – 90’s!  Both credit and non-credit options are offered, with an employer many times paying for part or all of the cost.  Special attention is available to learners who are further away from, or never completed, high school to renew their basic skills; and, RCTC has a process to award credit for prior learning in recognition of work and life experiences.  Additionally, veterans are awarded credit for training received during their service to our nation.

With the Minnesota legislature in full swing, and the State’s positive budget forecast, now is the time to consider the far-reaching value of our public colleges and universities – especially our cornerstone in Rochester. . .  Rochester Community and Technical College.  The Minnesota State system of colleges and universities has made their budget request that, if funded, would allow employers in the Rochester area to continue to rely on RCTC for filling critical open positions in our rapidly growing Southeastern Minnesota economy.  Funding will ensure that RCTC can continue to deliver innovative and interactive learning that provides relevant, accessible, and affordable educational opportunities to our diverse and growing community.

Employers in our region depend on their local colleges and universities to prepare and maintain a skilled workforce, and promote innovation and new business growth. Rochester and the State of Minnesota simply must have more college graduates (and keep more graduates in the state) to remain competitive. RCTC, like others, are working hard to recruit, retain and graduate more students, and adequate resources are vital in shaping Minnesota’s and Rochester’s future and the future of our students’ lives.

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