Growing up, Sheldon Fitwi never thought of himself as a leader. After serving on a tour in Afghanistan and making his way to Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), where he spent the last year serving as the college’s student senate director of public relations, he now leads with ease and confidence.
Sheldon is just one of many students who achieve success at our college. He and thousands of his peers were able to reach their goals because of the outstanding work of dedicated faculty and staff and also because of the collective resources needed to make it happen. We all made an investment and it paid off.
The legislative session has just a few weeks until completion. Legislators are considering many important investments, among them funding for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), which includes MCTC. Our colleges and universities have just two primary sources of funding: tuition from students and appropriations from the state of Minnesota. Thanks to the legislature and Governor Dayton, we have frozen tuition for the last two years, making college more affordable for students in Minneapolis and our surrounding neighborhoods. With the exception of a funding increase last session, over the past 15 years, state support for higher education has been on a steep decline. Since 1999, Minnesota has cut funding by 53 percent. We used to lead the nation when it came to supporting our state colleges and universities but now we lag far behind. Once we were 21 percent above the national average and now we’re 20 percent below. It has become increasingly difficult to maintain the level of expertise and services that help students like Sheldon start a new path in their lives.
Our ability to offer these opportunities has never been more important. Within five years, fully 74 percent of the jobs in Minnesota will require some postsecondary credentials. At a time when the demographics of the state are such that 70 percent of our growth will come from underserved populations, MnSCU is the only resource able to respond: our colleges and universities serve more first-generation students, more students of color and American Indian students, more low-income students, and more veterans than all of Minnesota’s other higher education options — combined.
So as you hear about all the many investments being considered this legislative session, we hope you will keep higher education in mind. We are united with the faculty and staff of the college as well as our friends at the MnSCU system office in encouraging our elected officials to continue investing in our statewide higher education. We must make room for our priorities in this time of competing priorities, and no need is as great as making access to college possible for all Minnesotans, meeting the future workforce needs of Minnesota, and protecting our ability to deliver programs to make that happen.
Interim President, Minneapolis Community and Technical College
Local MSCF Chapter President, MCTC
Union Steward, AFSCME
Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) Local 1304 President, MCTC
Middle Management Association (MMA) Liaison, MCTC
Student Senate President, MCTC