Tuesday, August 16, 2005

2-year colleges offering 4-year courses 

Glorioud day up here yesterday, so finally got an afternoon walking around town, sitting on a dock with a cigar and this wine (the 1999 Zin, in fact -- as rich a Zin as I've ever had), barbequeing corn and dogs (meatless for me, thanks) and generally decompressing. If it weren't for LS kicking my tail in cribbage, it'd been perfect.

Where I work is part of the MnSCU system of both two and four-year colleges, and I'm sure they passed around this article from yesterday's STrib on the increasing use of the technical and community colleges to offer four-year programs.

Carrie Anderson is a wife, a busy mom who carts her boys around to summer hockey practices, an aspiring teacher and a statistic.

She graduated from high school. But at age 32, she doesn't have a four-year college degree.

That makes the Zimmerman resident like many others in Anoka, Chisago, Sherburne and Wright counties on the Twin Cities' northern edge. According to the 2000 census, they are the state's only counties where residents are more likely to have a high school diploma, but less likely to have at least a bachelor's degree.

Why? From Anoka, it's a half-hour drive to the University of Minnesota and less than an hour to St. Cloud State University. Over the years, people have cited everything from lack of a good bridge over the Mississippi River to fear of big campuses to a blue-collar attitude that led people to stick close to home.

If residents can't or won't leave home to get a four-year degree, why not take the degree to them? That's exactly what the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MnSCU) has done by bringing state university faculty members to two-year campuses.

In 50 different programs around the state, MnSCU faculty will teach university courses at two-year colleges, allowing students to earn a four-year degree without ever leaving the community or technical college campus.
This has been going on for awhile, and it is the direct aim of MnSCU to "integrate the system" so that students can get the entire range of MnSCU curricula without leaving their own locations. It's also worth understanding that state university faculty, who would seem to be cut out of the loop, are often teaching those classes. Each university (as distinguished from a tech or community college) has a continuing studies program, like ours. Their mission in part is to get out and sell programs to the techs and CCs.
Anoka-Ramsey Community College sits smack in the middle of those educationally underachieving counties. When it announced via a community mailing a couple of weeks ago that courses linked to four-year degree programs from St. Cloud and Metropolitan state universities would be offered on campus starting this fall, school officials had to draft additional people to handle hundreds of phone calls.
Why take there? The drive, and that "people are exhausted" after work. Also noted by one student:
While she likes St. Cloud, she thinks the university is focused more on serving 18-year-olds than people like her. She said she gets mail all the time that is addressed, "To the parents of Carrie Anderson," and she was irritated that when she enrolled, she was required to attend a Saturday lecture on drinking and drugs.

"For crying out loud, I've got a family here and we don't drink and do drugs," Anderson said. "I can see it for those young kids. ... That was a bummer, wasting the day."

And let's not forget ORIE 020, SCSU's own version of freshman orientation. Students now are being run through that course. (Note to any freshmen reading this: Scholars seeks a recording or journal of the event. Inquire to comments at scsuscholars dot com.)