Local colleges seek state funding

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, of which Anoka Technical College and Anoka-Ramsey Community College are a part, is asking for $178 million in new money this biennium.

Designs for new medical assistant classroom space, including a waiting room, were drawn up years ago by the DLR Group. Photo courtesy of Anoka Technical College
Designs for new medical assistant classroom space, including a waiting room, were drawn up years ago by the DLR Group. Photo courtesy of Anoka Technical College

Of that, $143 million will go to fund inflationary costs at 3 percent in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, $25 million will be used to help finance the replacement of a 20-year-old core information system and $10 million will be used for student incentive grants.

Together, Anoka Technical College and Anoka-Ramsey Community College would like to see $6 million and $154,500 in incentive grants for students.

A bill requesting such funding was introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives and referred to the Higher Education and Career Readiness Policy and Finance Committee. The chairperson of the committee, Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, is the bill’s chief author, and Feb. 14 he moved that the bill be laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.

If an additional $6 million comes through for Anoka Tech and Anoka-Ramsey, a variety of programs will see improvements, including the medical assistant program at Anoka Tech.

Lisa Sailor, one of three medical assistant instructors at the college, graduated from Anoka Tech herself in 1999. When she returned to teach at the college 11 years later, classrooms looked exactly the same with one exception: Whiteboards had replaced chalkboards.

“We need updating,” Sailor said. “Medical always changes.”

The college started planning to redesign classrooms to replicate a clinic setting in 2013. The redesign was slated to begin in 2016, but the project was back-burnered until 2018 and will likely be pushed even farther into the future, according to Sailor.

Industry partners have been helpful, donating medical equipment, and the Foundation Board has also provided needed support. But to continue the program’s success – all 2016 graduates that have taken the national certification exam given by the American Association of Medical Assistants have passed and the program has a 90-plus percent placement rate – there needs to be further investment.

“Lab supplies cost a lot of money,” Sailor said.

If legislators approve the proposed budget, Sailor has many ideas for improvement. Some of her goals are updating medical equipment, redesigning classrooms, reinstating the lab assistant position and developing a medical assistant to registered nurse mobility program.

Another program depending on state funding to expand is Anoka-Ramsey’s new Minnesota Alliance for Nursing Education program. Its first graduating class will receive diplomas in May.

“Having the financial resources to expand the program, increase enrollment and support the needs of the program through equipment that is current with practice is vital in providing the education our nursing students need,” said Sandra Kohler, Anoka-Ramsey dean of nursing.

If funding comes through, Kohler would like to see the MANE program offer a part-time option for students seeking that.

Additionally, the colleges would like to see 309 of their nearly 5,150 students receive incentive grants.

The grants are one-time $500 awards to students who are identified as at-risk for dropping out of college but who excel academically. Such grants help to reduce the achievement gap.

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