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Published October 18, 2013, 09:55 AM

Partnership key for Northland Community and Technical College future

New, growing partnerships with North Dakota businesses and UND could help make up for dwindled state support on the east side of the Red River for Northland Community and Technical College, said President Anne Temte Thursday.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

New, growing partnerships with North Dakota businesses and UND could help make up for dwindled state support on the east side of the Red River for Northland Community and Technical College, said President Anne Temte Thursday.

“There have been deep cuts in support for higher education in Minnesota,” she told about 130 officials at the East Grand Forks campus in her fourth “State of the College” address.

“Nationally, the reductions have averaged 23 percent. In Minnesota it’s been 48 percent,” she said. “Minnesota likes to lead the nation in a lot of things but this is not one of them. And the funding cuts are likely permanent.”

Temte is starting her eighth year running the two-campus NCTC and she gave a similar address Wednesday in Thief River Falls.

The two campuses merged in 2003.

State cuts

Temte sketched out a key fact: In 2002, 66 percent of the school’s funding came from the state and 33 percent from student tuition. Last year, 61 percent of the Northland’s revenue came from student tuition, and only 39 percent from the state.

That’s not going to change anytime soon, so finding more efficiencies and students — through recruitment as well as retention — is the way her institution is coping, she said. So is appealing to the business community.

The luncheon was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce for Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

Northland is part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system, made up of 24 two-year colleges and seven state universities, the “other system,” from the University of Minnesota’s campuses.

“Our completion rates, especially for students of color, exceeds those of almost any MnSCU institution,” Temte said.

Northland leads MnSCU in developing online programs and is teaching the rest of the state, she said.

And the bottom line is written in black.

“Even during trying times, we have balanced out budget,” Temte said,

The trying times makes NCTC very customer-friendly, according to Temte as well as community leaders who showed up Thursday.

Jeff Wilson, board chairman of Vilandre Heating, Air Conditioning and Plumbing in Grand Forks, introduced Temte by touting Northland’s importance to his company.

“I have a personal stake in the success of some very specific programs at NCTC,” Wilson said. “Twenty-nine percent of my field personnel are graduates of this institution and just recently it was as high as 38 percent. So I want to thank Anne and her staff for keeping these programs available because they have become very critical for my business.”

It was remarked on at the luncheon that Sanford Health and Altru Health System each had a table near the front with good reason.

“Both Sanford and Altru employ hundreds of our health graduates,” Temte said.

Partnerships

Her school is committed to “work with the Grand Forks community to provide customized solutions to your training needs,” she told the audience.

She said a key part of such customization is more partnership in which a business might provide equipment with the help of matching state funding for students to use in the curriculum.

Temte cited a project last year in which Altru provided $50,000 the school could use to find matching funds from the state, to obtain new, state-of-the art imaging equipment for the radiology programs.

Temte also recognized the college’s collaboration with UND. NCTC provides UND not only students who finish their four-year degrees but also aviation programs including in the unmanned aircraft systems field, Temte said after the luncheon.

“We have been considered part of the team, even though we are across the Red River. I have never lived in a state where the legislators are as accessible as they are in North Dakota. It’s phenomenal.”

That means collaboration more than competition, she said.

Enrollment dip

Northland’s record enrollment was hit in 2009, when it had a total of about 2,900 “full-year-equivalent” students at both campuses, roughly 60 percent in East Grand Forks, 40 percent of them in Thief River Falls, Temte said.

Enrollment has rolled back since: to about 2,700 two years ago, 2,800 last year, and likely 2,700 again this year, Temte said.

Having six universities within 90 miles of East Grand Forks makes for plenty of places for students to attend, especially as the region’s high schools continue to decrease in size, Temte said.

One selling point: Northland’s general tuition rate of $158 per credit hour is less than the general tuition at the region’s four-year schools, Temte said.

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