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Minnesota West in “dire need” of state financial support

A Minnesota West is shown outside an entrance in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON — Minnesota West Community and Technical College is one of the state’s 37 colleges and universities hopeful for financial support from state bonding to continue serving its students and communities without compromising its educational resources.

According to Minnesota West President Terry Gaalswyk, with approximately $12 million worth of deferred maintenance needs across its southwest Minnesota campuses, the college is in dire need of financial support to not only maintain its facilities, but continuing to support its area community and industry needs.

“We are standing at a critical point relative to the needs of our communities, our industry partners and the students we’re missioned to serve,” Gaalswyk said. “We walk a tight line on the budget side relative to meeting the needs of our communities, and yet providing space that is relevant and aligned with the needs of the students choosing to attend the organization.”

Funding requests for Minnesota West — as well as all of Minnesota State universities and colleges — is currently being considered by the Minnesota Legislature.

The Minnesota House majority released its 2018 bonding proposal Wednesday. It has identified a $40 million allocation for higher education asset preservation and replacement for Minnesota State colleges that falls short of the system’s $130 million request. It also identified approximately $82.5 million in projects — short of the system’s $94.5 million request — but that would not affect Minnesota West.

The Senate has yet to release its proposal. Negotiations, a joint proposal and Gov. Mark Dayton approval would need to follow.

According to Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra, a big portion of the request is to address infrastructure deficiencies that he says have caused an unsafe environment for students.

“This request is to make sure that we have our physical infrastructure in decent enough shape so we can create the appropriate learning spaces, which our students need and deserve,” Malhotra said. “We are focused on student success, and in order to make sure that we retain those students and take them across the finish line, we have to make sure we have appropriate spaces so students can learn to the best possible manner they can.”

If Minnesota State gets its full request, Minnesota West would receive roughly $4.4 million to address what Gaalswyk categorized as three areas of critical need.

Replacement of a roof on a building at the Minnesota West Worthington campus that is beyond its life expectancy and updating restrooms to meet accessibility requirements and expectations of campus guests, students, faculty and staff are two projects that would utilize dollars, Gaalswyk said.

He added that funds would be routed to the college’s Granite Falls campus to replace three HVAC systems — some that date back to the original build in 1968.

A $10 million campus support request is also before the legislature. If fully funded, Minnesota West would receive approximately $200,000 to be dispersed across its five campuses to accelerate solutions for communities, Gaalswyk said.

“Minnesota West works hard to align programming essential to local communities, industry partners and students,” he said.

The dollars would be utilized to continue to form partnerships between the college and area school districts and businesses, he added.

Gaalswyk provided specific examples of programs that are in the making to meet community needs, such as early childhood providers, elementary education teachers and workforce housing.

Gaalswyk said a merging partnership between Minnesota West and Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall would offer an elementary education teacher of color program to the Worthington community to address specific Independent School District 518 needs. A teacher pipeline program — which is currently being offered for the first time this semester at Worthington High School — would be further developed, Gaalswyk said.

In addition to the Bluejay Villas student-housing project currently under construction at the Worthington campus, Gaalswyk said a partnership in Pipestone between the college, Pipestone Area School District and Pipestone Economic Development Authority is also addressing housing needs while allowing carpentry students to develop industry skills.

“We structured a partnership between these three organizations to remodel (more than 40 dilapidated homes in Pipestone) and bring them back to the market at a cost structure that is very affordable for workforce development needs,” he said.

Gaalswyk said if the legislature does not provide necessary funding, maintenance projects would have to be completed with the college’s operating budget.

“It would create additional strains on limited funds,” he said.

Malhotra visited Minnesota West’s Canby campus on Thursday to raise awareness and advocate for financial support. At the conclusion of his Canby visit, Malhotra visited all 54 campuses of Minnesota State.

During his tour, Malhotra said two things he witnessed across all campuses included an inspiring educational journey from students and how crucial the colleges and universities are for the communities and regions they’re located.

“Not only true to meet the needs of the workforce, they also add economic and social vibrance to these communities,” he said.

Gaalswyk said Minnesota West appreciates the support from the Minnesota Senate, House and Governor’s office.

“We appreciate the support in balancing the needs at the state and taking a look at Greater Minnesota and providing for the well-being of our communities and our students,” he said.

To learn more about Minnesota State 2018 Capital Request and Supplemental Budget, visit http://www.minnstate.edu/legislative/index.html.

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