Partnerships bolster college and foundationPublished 9:41am Monday, March 24, 2014
Guest Column by Adenuga Atewologun
Community colleges like Riverland have become increasingly more popular options as students consider the rising costs of traditional four-year institutions. Attending Riverland Community College and then transferring to a four-year university to complete a bachelor’s degree is a more viable option when families consider managing educational expenses.
However, even these benefits do not come without challenges. Across the U.S., colleges have struggled on all fronts to meet the budgeting challenges quality higher education requires.
Yet studies indicate that by 2020, 64 percent of all jobs in the nation will require postsecondary education and training. In Minnesota, that number is greater (74 percent). Colleges are responding to this by enhancing their private fundraising to enhance scholarship options for students and private donations to update technology, equipment and college resources necessary to offer excellent educational opportunities to students.
The Riverland Community Foundation has embraced these challenges. Our foundation raises, manages and distributes resources to support, enhance and promote the educational opportunities Riverland Community College offers the people of the region. Our foundation is committed to raising funds for scholarships and creating partnerships within our communities.
Through these community partnerships, we are learning that the main benefit is not only the long-term health of Riverland as a college, but also the communities we serve.
The foundation’s 150 by 2015 Scholarship Campaign is making headway and clearing the way for many more students to achieve their dream of a higher education and get a jumpstart to a new career.
The foundation embarked on this special project July 1, 2012, to increase the number of scholarship funds available that support Riverland students on their quest for an education. When the campaign began, the Riverland Foundation had 90 sponsored scholarships with a goal to have 150 sponsored scholarships available for students by the end of 2015. Since then, local individuals, organizations and businesses have donated to the challenge providing 38 new scholarships for Riverland students.
Although these efforts are extraordinary, we still struggle to meet the needs of our students. Even though the Riverland Foundation distributes more than 400 scholarship awards annually, we are still turning away more than 100 eligible, deserving students because we lack the funds to help them.
Another fundraising challenge: The Minnesota Legislature appropriated $7.278 million in fiscal year 2015 for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ leveraged equipment program. Riverland’s share is $98,830. This program includes equipment for instructional purposes that the MnSCU board determines would produce graduates with skills that fill high employer needs in the state.
However, an equipment acquisition under this appropriation can occur only if matched by cash or in-kind from non-state sources. This offers Riverland the special opportunity to update our programs’ training equipment to prepare students to use the same equipment they will use when they join the workforce. Yet it only occurs if we receive donations in matching funds.
If you, your organization or business would be interested in sponsoring a scholarship or donating equipment to one of our programs please contact the Riverland Community College Foundation at 507-433-0630 to talk with a representative. Your contributions change lives and sustain our region’s workforce.
Adenuga Atewologun is the president of Riverland Community College. He holds a doctorate in agricultural engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.