by Joyce Helens, President, St. Cloud Technical & Community College
September 22, 2013
The beginning of a new school year is always an exciting time.
This year we have experienced another increase in enrollment at a time when the trend in Minnesota and the United States is enrollment decline. In fact, St. Cloud Technical & Community College is one of three institutions in the Minnesota State College & University system that has increased enrollments. The other two are in the Twin Cities.
The double-digit enrollment spikes we experienced peaked a couple of years ago when our economy began to rebound and people went back to work because employers were hiring again. These are trends that have been repeated over the decades and are not difficult to follow and predict.
One trend that presents challenges is addressing the changing needs of different student populations. First-generation college students, immigrant students, the older student who was laid off from a job, and the returning veteran all may need different basic skills strengthening and support services to successfully complete a course of study and get a good job.
Of all these growing student populations, SCTCC is honored to be the college of first choice for many veterans.
SCTCC has 65 years of working with nontraditional students, and, because of this, the college is uniquely positioned to respond to the needs of our fast-growing student population of service men and women to ensure their success.
This year, SCTCC has again received the Military Friendly Schools designation, which honors the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the country doing the most to embrace America’s military service members, veterans and spouses as students and ensure their success on campus.
SCTCC is committed to leading practices in the recruitment and retention of students with military experience by providing world-class programs and services for student support on campus, academic accreditation and other services such as the recently launched “Veterans’ Days.” On the first Friday of each month, veterans can tour the college, explore programs and offerings and get information about how to enroll — all free of charge.
We are planning for an expanded Veterans Center to be built in the newly acquired Heartland Clinic building. We also plan to offer college credit for military training as well as an associate’s degree specific to military experience.
Additionally, SCTCC has committed to implementing the “Eight Keys to Success” for veterans developed by the U.S. Department of Education and Veterans Affairs. They are:
- Create a culture of trust and connectedness across the campus community to promote well-being and success for veterans.
- Ensure consistent and sustained support from campus leadership.
- Implement an early alert system to ensure all veterans receive academic, career and financial advice before challenges become overwhelming.
- Coordinate and centralize campus efforts for all veterans, together with the creation of a designated space.
- Collaborate with local communities and organizations, including government agencies, to align and coordinate various services for veterans.
- Utilize a uniform set of data tools to collect and track information on veterans, including demographics, retention and degree completion.
- Provide comprehensive professional development for faculty and staff on issues and challenges unique to veterans.
- Develop a system that ensures sustainability of effective practices for veterans.
“Trending” helps us prepare for the ebb and flow of student enrollment so we can build strategies to keep the employee pipeline flowing with skilled workers in our communities. The trend of increased veterans enrollment at STCCC is good news for the communities we serve, as our veteran graduates will be well prepared to fill the good jobs we have available.
We owe our service men and women an education, training and jobs worthy of the sacrifice they have made in serving our country. To all military veterans, thank you for your service.