Devinder Malhotra

NORTH MANKATO — South Central College students training for six high-demand job sectors will have access to scholarships worth $2,500 each, following beefed up funding from the state.

“It is particularly important now because of the severe workforce shortage,” Devinder Malhotra, chancellor of the statewide system of colleges and universities, said during a stop at SCC Thursday.

The Legislature and governor this year put up $7 million more toward workforce development scholarships for students in manufacturing, agriculture, health-care services, information technology, early childhood education and transportation programs. That’s on top of $1 million that was appropriated earlier for a pilot program.

Malhotra said the scholarships allow more access to college, attract a more diverse set of students and helps students succeed in graduating.

Preliminary numbers show that 90% of students who got the scholarships during the pilot program returned the next semester to continue their education.

That’s nearly 25% higher than the general student population.

Of the 240,000 students in the system, 80,000 come from families with low incomes.

The chancellor said the scholarships, along with other income-based scholarships, means many of those low-income students will be able to complete college at little or no cost.

SCC, which got funding for eight scholarships during the pilot program will receive 26 this year. And that number will jump to three times that in the 2020-2021 school year when the bulk of the new funding kicks in.

Students have until July 31 to apply for the scholarships for the coming school year, by logging on to the SCC website.

“It’s very important we bring in more students and get more students over the finish line,” Malhotra said. He hopes the program will draw more students of color to campuses.

“The workforce of tomorrow is going to be more diverse.”

Beyond a growing shortage of workers, he noted that most future jobs will require some post-secondary training.

With smaller high school classes and the cost of education rising, enrollment has been falling in recent years at colleges and universities in the state.

This year the system increased tuition by 3% and is expecting another enrollment dip this fall.

Starting next fall, Minnesota State University and the other six universities in the system will also be more involved in the program.

Scholarship students who get their two year degree at SCC will be able to transfer to MSU or another university and get a scholarship for another year.

The scholarships are also aimed at drawing more partnerships with business and industry.

DeAnna Burt, vice president of student and academic affairs at SCC, said they already partner with many businesses and industries in the area, with the companies providing additional scholarship money and giving students hands-on training at businesses while they’re getting their degree or certification.

David Jones, vice president for student affairs and enrollment at MSU, said the university is excited to expand its relationship with SCC. He said scholarships for early childhood education will help meet a growing daycare shortage locally. Childcare education and transportation programs were not part of the pilot program.

By the end of Thursday Malhotra would finish a four-day, 1,600-mile blitz of 20 cities to promote the scholarships. “I’m on a journey, odyssey, blitz. I’ve used different words to describe it,” he said of his driving trek to all corners of the state.

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