Riverland announces intentions for 2015 legislative session
Published 10:13 am Monday, January 19, 2015
By Trey Mewes, Austin Daily Herald
AUSTIN — With new agricultural programs and plans for a $7.5 million renovation of its Albert Lea Campus, Riverland Community College sought to build closer ties with area legislators with a public breakfast banquet Friday morning.
Riverland Community College President Adenuga Atewologun announced three agricultural-based programs to start this fall during a speech asking for a close working relationship with lawmakers during the Minnesota Legislature’s current session.
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“This is a college that the community really feels is for us,” Atewologun said. “This is a college of the community.”
Atewologun said the community college felt agricultural programs — agricultural sciences, food science and biotechnology — were important for rural communities.
In addition, the college seeks to turn the Albert Lea campus into a transportation, tech and industrial center through a renovation. Riverland hopes to secure $1.77 million from the state toward that project.
Atewologun also urged Rep. Jeanne Poppe and Sen. Dan Sparks, both DFL-Austin, and Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, to consider the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities request for $142 million, which Atewologun said would help keep colleges open.
Riverland’s portion of that request amounts to about $2.37 million, which includes $1.8 million for faculty and $455,000 for operating costs.
Area lawmakers pledged to work more closely with Riverland and to take up its requests at the Capitol.
“It’s so important that we continue to build a relationship between K-12 and higher education,” Poppe said.
Friday’s banquet comes as lawmakers begin proposing education legislature in the state House of Representatives and Senate. The Senate DFL recently unveiled a proposal to fund two-year community college educations for all Minnesotans after President Barack Obama announced a similar federal plan for U.S. students.
The plan has earned plenty of attention and some criticism from educators who say giving students free tuition is just a shift in resources and may not solve the U.S.’s workforce issues, nor meet the country’s education goals.
Poppe believed the plan, albeit imperfect, was a good way to open discussion on better funding higher education and helping students earn degrees.
Bennett said she supported certain parts of House File 1, which included potential tax credits for students who earned degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematical fields.
“We really need to look at the way we’re paying for schooling,” she said.
This is the first formal legislative outreach the college has done, according to Riverland officials. Atewologun told the audience Riverland is expecting to hold more public breakfasts with legislators in the future.