Guest Column: Riverland grateful for efforts to fund project

Published 9:19 am Monday, June 6, 2016

By Adenuga Atewologun

Riverland Community College President Adenuga Atewologun holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from the University of Ife (Ile-Ife, Nigeria) and a master’s and a doctorate in agricultural engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

During the final hours of the legislative session last week, the outlook was extremely promising for Riverland Community College’s bonding project to create a $7.4 million Transportation, Trade and Industrial Education Center at Riverland’s Albert Lea campus. The center was in both the Senate and House bills, and it looked like the bonding bill would pass and include Riverland’s project.

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The session ended before the bonding bill and supplemental bill passed. It is easy for us to second-guess their work and decisions, but after working with area legislators on this project the past several months, I recognize how difficult their positions are. Last year, many legislators took time in their off months to visit our campuses and evaluate the proposed projects across the state. Many of these projects at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities campuses ensure our classrooms and laboratories will remain state-of-the art, safe, warm and as in our case in Albert Lea, dry.

The Riverland project renovates outdated space to relocate truck driving and collision repair programs from Austin to Albert Lea and integrates these programs into shared spaces with auto service and diesel programs. Updated spaces and systems will increase enrollment and retention. This project will also have a positive impact on the industrial maintenance and mechanics, welding, machining, wind turbine technician, solar installer and construction electrician programs to benefit nearly 400 students and serve underrepresented populations, including veterans and those returning to the workforce. The project allows Riverland to fulfill a critical workforce need by producing key workers for high-demand careers in our area, the state and nation.

Adenuga Atewologun

Adenuga Atewologun

Gov. Dayton announced on Wednesday the conditions under which he will agree to call the Legislature into special session. Included in his conditions is a requirement that bills submitted for consideration include an additional $21 million operating budget increase for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, an additional $28 million in Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) for a total of $63 million in HEAPR funds, and an additional critical classroom project, bringing individual campus projects to nine.

Through his actions, the governor has proven how deeply he cares about education and making our colleges and universities a priority. For that, Riverland is truly grateful for leadership that invests in our state’s greatest resources, its people.

Legislative negotiations are often difficult, but I am trusting that process and hopeful that our legislators can work toward an agreement on the bonding bill that includes not only our Transportation and Industrial Education Center but also the other projects from the Minnesota State College and Universities.

I also want to acknowledge the work of our local business leaders and the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce for their resolution in support of Riverland’s Transportation and Industrial Education Center project. Please continue to urge Minnesota’s leadership to invest in projects that will provide long-term support to Greater Minnesota.