January 2018 newsletter
Explore how the college library is changing in the digital age and how two Minnesota college access programs are thinking outside the box to reach more students where they’re at. Then take a more in depth look at how U.S. House legislation may impact Minnesota students.
Libraries have always been at the heart of Minnesota private colleges, but the library of today looks very different than the stacks of decades past. Macalester College has embraced the changing nature of the college library and hasn’t been afraid to rethink its space and function.
The library continues to be at the center of Macalester — physically, academically and socially. “The first level of the library has always been a very busy hub, students come there to see and be seen,” Terri Fishel, Macalester’s library director said, “With the changes on level two, it’s now just buzzing.”
At center of the newly renovated second floor is the Idea Lab. It is what’s called a “maker space” that includes things like sewing machines, interactive whiteboards and a co-working space. With the feeling of a startup tech company, the space is often filled with students working independently, but it also hosts classes and speakers.
The renovation also includes group study rooms, entrepreneur offices and work spaces. There is a new non-coffee café, which is a casual open workspace with café-like seating and an interactive classroom. Fishel said all these changes were designed to promote collaboration, creativity and innovation.
Students and faculty also have access to specialty equipment like 3D printers, vinyl laser cutters and state-of-the-art graphics tablets.
“Libraries have traditionally been a space for students and faculty to create,” Fishel said. “In something like the maker space, what you’re creating is just more tactile.”
Although some of the spaces have changed, the library still provides the classic necessities. “We did not get rid of any books,” Fishel said. “We moved 100,000 books over the course of last summer to other floors of the library.”
Not only has the space changed, library staff are spending their time differently as well. Tech savvy students have access to a wide range of digital resources and materials, so it can be hard for students to decipher what’s reliable and what’s not, Fishel said. “We’ve been talking about reliable sources for a long time but there has been a renewed effort over the last year or so. We’re focused on helping them analyze sources and enhance their critical perspective of digital sources.”
“I think students at liberal arts colleges have more experience developing critical thinking skills. We are now helping them focus those skills on digital sources,” Fishel said. “I’m really proud of our librarians who are working with students in new ways and in new spaces.”
By Tom Lancaster
Efforts to help students get to college are always changing, so we caught up with two non-profits to see what’s new.
College Possible’s Tech Connected program
College Possible helps high school students in Minnesota and several other states navigate the college admissions process and become successful college students. Their traditional campus model focuses on urban centers where schools may have fewer resources and lots of students.
“About three years ago, we went around rural Minnesota meeting with principals who told us they were interested in a college access program,” said Shannon Oldenburg, program manager for the Tech Connected program. “We saw that there was just as much need in rural areas, and we wanted to get them connect to our recourses.”
While interested in serving these communities, College Possible wasn’t sure it’s traditional campus model would work. So a new offering was created. The Tech Connected program is a virtual college access program that allows students to connect with College Possible coaches digitally. Using email, Facebook, Snapchat, text and Instagram allows the Tech Connected coaches to reach students on the platforms they’re already using.
“One of the most unique parts of the Tech Connected program is that it’s highly individualized,” Oldenburg said. “Many college access programs use a cohort model, which can be very successful. Tech Connected is a one-on-one model. We do have a set curriculum, but our Tech Connected coaches customize the program to each student to help them the best they can.”
As of 2016-17, 90 percent of Tech Connected seniors applied to college and of those, 99 percent were accepted. “Last year was our first year with seniors, and we’re really proud of them,” Oldenburg said. “Our retention rates are really good — we still need to grow, but it’s a good start.”
“There aren’t a lot of organizations doing anything like this,” Oldenburg said. “So we’re creating our own best practices.”
Breakthrough Twin Cities is deepening its program
Since 2005, Breakthrough Twin Cities’ six-year college access program has focused on getting students of color prepared for college. After the first alums graduated from college in 2015, Breakthrough decided to deepen its focus to include student loan debt.
“It’s not enough for us just to focus on getting into college anymore, we are making sure students don’t graduate with a huge debt load,” said Daniel Bernal, senior program director. “We noticed an increasing number of students attending large universities at a high cost, so we’ve really started to focus on getting students to look at different types of schools. Private colleges offer choice both academically and financially.”
The ultimate goal of the program is to have college change the students’ lives, but that can only happen financially if they graduate with a manageable debt load, Bernal said.
Breakthrough is starting conversations with students to build their comfort with a wide varied of institutions. “Our students come from large urban high schools and often don’t think of private colleges as an option,” Bernal said. “We’re now getting students on campus visits and building bridges with private colleges.”
The focus on choice and student debt has paid off. Of their alums attending college, Breakthrough Twin Cities has a 60-70 percent graduation rate, with students receiving grants and scholarships that cover on average 76 percent of the cost of attendance.
By Tom Lancaster
The landscape of federal support for college students would change dramatically under legislation moving through the House of Representatives. While some new efforts would emerge, several existing sources of aid would be eliminated, with low-income students facing the greatest risks.
The higher ed committee in the House passed a bill in December to reauthorize the Higher Education Act that is heading to the full House for approval in the coming weeks, said Sarah Flanagan, vice president for government relations and policy development at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Weighing in at more than 500 pages, the bill includes a host of provisions, each with fans and foes. But taking a step back to look at the bill’s overall impact, Flanagan is concerned. The bottom line, she said, is that the legislation would make college more expensive for more students.
A significant source of worry is the proposed elimination of one of the federal grant programs that targets the neediest students, the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) program. The Pell Grant program is the larger source of need-based aid that doesn’t have to be repaid. SEOG grants are a source of additional support for some Pell recipients who have the greatest financial need — with awards that average around $700, explained Megan Coval, vice president of policy and federal relations at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
“A lot of program elimination is happening in this bill,” Coval said. “Some of it might be funneled into other programs, but other funds are going to broader national deficit reduction. That’s a concern for us, and other higher ed associations. If Congress wants to talk about streamlining and simplifying, that’s fair. But what we don’t want to do is cut and fail to redirect money into federal student aid programs in other ways.”
In Minnesota, 25,000 college students receive a total of $16.5 million in SEOG grants that would be eliminated under the House committee’s bill.
Another area where students would be hurt involves the subsidy that is now in place for borrowers that prevents them having interest payments while they’re in college. The bill would eliminate that subsidy, increasing costs for borrowers. Many low- and middle-income students would be unable to make those interest payments while in school, Flanagan said, so their total indebtedness would end up being higher. And Coval noted that the bill makes no corresponding increase in grant aid to lessen the impact of the change. Last academic year more than 140,000 students received these subsidized loans.
Other proposed changes include eliminating loan forgiveness for graduates pursuing public service fields, eliminating work study for graduate students, lowering borrowing limits for graduate students, lowering limits on Parent PLUS loans and raising the amount institutions are expected to contribute when they provide TRIO college access programs.
Some college leaders are already stating their concerns. Colette Geary, president of The College of St. Scholastica, shared her reservations with members of Congress in a recent letter. She noted that as written, the bill would “negatively impact the majority of our 4,325 enrolled students.” Along with concerns about the loss of SEOG grants and changes to loan programs, the college offers five TRIO programs that serve more than 900 low-income and first-generation youth, whether in high school or college. She wrote that the proposal for new cost sharing requirements for colleges offering TRIO programs “would severely limit the college’s ability to serve these deserving students.”
In such a massive bill, there are some elements that have been well received by higher education. The bill includes a proposed Pell Grant “bonus,” which students would receive if they enroll to take a course load of 15 credits or more per semester. The elimination of fees that students pay for securing federal loans is also widely supported.
Looking down the road, several hurdles would need to be cleared before any components of the House legislation becomes law, including the passage of legislation by the Senate’s higher ed committee (the members of which include Sen. Tina Smith, Minnesota’s new senator). While Flanagan noted that many components of what is in the House bill would likely be favored by Senate Republicans, she said that the input of Democrats in the Senate would be a factor as well, given that that chamber will require bipartisanship for a bill to move forward.
By John Manning
Our colleges awarded 30 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in Minnesota during the 2016-17 academic year. When just looking at nursing degrees, that number is much higher — with our colleges awarding 44 percent of all nursing bachelor’s degrees in Minnesota. What’s more, they also awarded 48 percent of all nursing master’s degrees too.
Source: NCES, IPEDS 2016-17 data
*The Minnesota Private College Council’s 17 member institutions
Baseball alumni go to bat for clubhouse at Saint Mary’s University
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota will break ground this spring for a baseball team clubhouse — thanks to generous alumni athletes including Marc Weisenburger ’75, who made the lead gift.
Carleton faculty, staff collaborate with local Buddhist temple
Carleton College faculty and students showcase some interesting collaborative digital projects championed by its Humanities Center, including a partnership with the Watt Munisotaram.
St. Scholastica faculty member lends expertise to EPA research efforts
The College of St. Scholastica Professor Jen Maki is playing a key role in a research effort that will help scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency determine how certain chemicals affect living things.
Analysis: Saint Ben’s is most efficient among national liberal arts schools
U.S. News compared per-student expenditures and educational quality and the College of Saint Benedict was rated No. 1 among national liberal arts colleges.
Hill Museum & Manuscript Library featured on CBS’s "60 Minutes"
The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at Saint John’s University was featured on the CBS news program "60 Minutes" on Dec. 24.
Gustavus announces $10 million gift from transportation entrepreneur
A gift commitment to Gustavus Adolphus College will support the Nobel Hall of Science expansion and renovation and scholarships for the most talented students.
CSP professor’s can-do approach to training service dogs
If you happen to meet Concordia University, St. Paul assistant science professor Taylor Mach, you will also likely meet Crush, a 21-month old yellow lab.
A Macalester alumnae’s take on the consequences of war with North Korea
Macalester College alumnae Abigail Stowe-Thurston, program assistant for nuclear policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, co-wrote an opinion piece for Teen Vogue urging peace over nuclear conflict.
St. Olaf student named to U.S. Bank ‘Future Leaders’ program
Having been named a U.S. Bank 'Future Leader,' St. Olaf College student Chris Casey '18 will get to attend Super Bowl LII and network with NFL staff.
Hamline plays at new TRIA hockey rink
The Hamline University women's and men's hockey teams have a new home to skate in — one with a panoramic view of downtown St. Paul.
Cobbers compose for Lyra Trio
A Concordia College junior's musical composition will be performed by a music faculty trio. The student was asked to create a piece for the Lyra Trio.
Scholars at the Capitol scheduled for February
Students from 16 of our colleges will be on hand the morning of Feb. 21 in the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda to present their research during the 2018 Private College Scholars at the Capitol. This is a public event so stop on by if you can make it.
Job and Internship Fair scheduled for Feb. 27
Undergraduates students from our member institutions will meet and interview with employers at the Minneapolis Convention Center for the 42nd annual Minnesota Private Colleges’ Job and Internship Fair, which is attended by more than 2,000 students each year.
Enrollment report released
The Council’s annual enrollment report is now available online for fall 2017. The report also includes comparisons to Minnesota public institutions.
Degrees earned reports now available online
The Council’s annual reports on bachelor’s and graduate degrees earned by students attending a Minnesota college or university were released in December.
Future of Undergraduate Education report published
The American Academy of Arts & Sciences recently published The Future of Undergraduate Education, The Future of America, which offers practical and actionable recommendations to improve the undergraduate experience.
Colleges moved quickly to accommodate McNally Smith students who need to transfer
Pioneer Press, Dec. 20, 2017
Higher ed liberal arts degrees on the upswing
University Business, Dec. 27, 2017
Here’s how Washington could shape higher education in 2018
Washington Post, Dec. 29, 2017
Stop counting and start courting: The role of a chief diversity officer
Higher Education Today, Jan. 8, 2018
More Minnesota students are graduating, but how many are actually ready for jobs or college?
MinnPost, Jan. 24, 2018