Nathan, Joe.tif

Minnesota has an amazing opportunity for students who enter one of its two-year public colleges this fall for the first time: If you study any of six “high job demand” areas, the state will pay half of selected students’ tuition and fees at the public two-year college ($5,000).

Additional support is available for a third year if a student continues at a public university in one of the six fields.

Hundreds of these “Workforce Development” scholarships are available. But people need to act very soon if they’re interested.

I asked 16 of the 30 public two-year colleges in the Minnesota State system for an update. All of them received state funding for these scholarships. Most of the colleges still have scholarship funds available in some of the focus areas as of mid-July.

The six areas are advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care, information technology, early childhood education and transportation. The Legislature selected these fields because they are projected to have many well-paid job openings.

Legislators decided to provide these scholarships for several reasons. First, employers say they have many good jobs in these fields and not enough well-trained applicants. The Legislature also was pleased by preliminary results of a pilot scholarship program.

Doug Anderson, Minnesota State system’s director of communication and media, told me: “Preliminary data shows that these scholarships may encourage students to continue and complete their programs: Of the students receiving a scholarship in fall 2018, over 90 percent have re-enrolled in spring 2019. Retention rates vary based on a number of factors, but for the general student population, you could use 65 percent - 70 percent (retention) for comparison.”

Students who received one of the initial scholarships also are eligible to apply. And a year from now, students who received these funds, earned at least a C average and took enough courses can receive a partial scholarship to use at one of Minnesota State public four-year universities.

But as of mid-July, hundreds of these scholarships are still available.

Anoka Technical and Anoka-Ramsey Community College: According to Marie Swaja, marketing and communications manager for Anoka Technical College and Anoka-Ramsey Community College, both have scholarships available for students new to the colleges in fall 2019 or for students who previously won a scholarship, and who want to earn a certificate, diploma or degree in various fields.

For Anoka Technical College in Anoka, those fields are practical nursing, medical assistant, machine trades or welding. To apply, email LeAnna Wangerin, director of enrollment at Anoka Tech, at

For Anoka-Ramsey Community College, with campuses in Coon Rapids and Cambridge, the eligible focus areas are business office technology, computer networking and telecommunications, computer programming, computer science, network administration, nursing, physical therapy assistant or pharmacy technician. To apply, email the Financial Aid Office at

Swaja explained, regarding both colleges, “Scholarships will be awarded based off of eligibility on a first-come, first-serve basis until all of the funds are allocated.” She said the deadline to apply is Aug. 30.

Central Lakes College: According to Jessie Perrine, communications coordinator for Central Lakes College, which has campuses in Brainerd and Staples: “Yes, we have scholarships available for fall 2019. The deadline to apply is July 31. … It is not first come, first served. A committee reviews each application and awards the scholarships based on their application, the program they are applying to, the level of financial need and their response to an essay question on the application.” All six of the focus areas are available.

Hennepin Technical College: Nairobi Abrams, chief advancement and communications officer at Hennepin Technical College, which has campuses in Brooklyn Park and Eden Prairie, reported that “the college already has awarded its allotment of 26 workforce scholarships.” However, she anticipates ”that we will have some additional scholarships available for Fall 2019. Scholarship recipients will have until next week to confirm acceptance of the scholarship and register for fall classes. Any remaining scholarship funds will be reposted and awarded based (on the) order that completed applications are received.”

Minneapolis Community and Technical College: Deanna Sheely, chief of staff and chief communications officer at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, wrote: “A deadline for applicants has not yet been established but we expect it to be mid-August. Minneapolis College will offer the grant in four of the six areas: manufacturing, health care services, information technology and early childhood education.”

Pine Technical and Community College: Joe Mulford, president of Pine Technical and Community College in Pine City, wrote that the college is accepting applications in five of the six areas. “We do not have academic programming in the agriculture area. The Workforce Development Scholarships are being offered on a first come, first served basis until all are dispersed. Pine Technical and Community College has additional scholarships through the PTCC Foundation in addition to the legislatively funded scholarships although the ‘late round’ application submission for fall is July 12.

“Pine (also) has a scholarship opportunity (Kick Start Scholarship) for graduates from eight area high schools that provides one year of free tuition and a $1,000 stipend for books and supplies to any student who was eligible for free/reduced lunch during their senior year of high school. Additionally, we offer the Dennis Frandsen scholarship program with three area high schools where any graduate can receive two years of free college and a $1,000 stipend to attend PTCC in any program area we offer. Students can apply through the start of fall semester for the last two programs discussed.”

Riverland Community College: Janelle Koepke, dean of Institutional Advancement, Riverland Community College, wrote that the college “does have Workforce Development Scholarships available for the high demand program areas that we offer on our campuses in Albert Lea, Owatonna, and Austin. Students can apply for scholarships on our online scholarship platform ( through July 15.”

Rochester Community and Technical College: According to Nate Stoltman, executive director of communications, marketing and external relations at Rochester Community and Technical College: “We have 25 Workforce Development Scholarships to award in all noted areas. Our deadline will be August 5th. … We will process applications as they come in, but there are certain restrictions and qualifications students must meet, so just because someone applies, doesn’t mean they are guaranteed a scholarship. The RCTC Foundation does have a few remaining scholarships they can award. Any student interested in those scholarships are encouraged to call the RCTC Foundation Office at 507-281-7771.”

St. Cloud Technical and Community College: Kate Wallace, marketing specialist at St. Cloud Technical and Community College, wrote: “With the new Workforce Development Scholarship funding, SCTCC received an additional 18 scholarships to award to students starting qualifying programs this fall at SCTCC. The list of scholarship-eligible programs at SCTCC that lead to high-demand careers has expanded to include: Auto Body Collision Technology, Automotive Service Technician, CNC and Advanced Machining, Computer-Aided Mechanical Design, Computer Programming, Cyber Security, Education, Health Information Technology, Medical Coding, Medium/Heavy Truck Technician, Network Administration, and Welding. The scholarship application deadline is July 26.”

Winona State University: Andrea Northam, Winona State University’s senior director of marketing, communications and media relations, explained: “This year’s Workforce Development Scholarships are available only to students at Minnesota State’s two-year colleges. However … funding has been allocated for FY2020 to award Workforce Development Scholarships to students transferring from a Minnesota State College to a related major at a four-year Minnesota State University. This will serve as a great incentive to help strengthen the pipeline for transfer students in these high demand employment areas.”

Mina Blyly-Strauss, a Minnesota educator and artist, recently told me, “I proudly went to Minneapolis Community and Technical College after graduating” from high school. She completed an associate degree and then other degrees over the last 15 years. She believes, and I agree, that completing a program at a public two-year college helps students “develop good skills for many jobs in a relatively short period of time.”

Colleges and universities aren’t just for job preparation. But if a youngster is interested in one of these six fields, the Workforce Development scholarships are a great opportunity.

Given late July and early August application deadlines, interested students should contact colleges soon.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school educator and PTA president directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome at Joe@centerforschoolcha

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