The MCTC News Blog

Program Brings 85 African American Male High School Students to MCTC Campus

Posted on: November 24th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

Twin Cities high school studentsLast week, MCTC’s College Now program (formerly known as K-12) welcomed 85 students from high schools in Apple Valley, Rosemount and Cottage Grove to campus. The law offices of Zelle Hoffman facilitated workshop sessions for these students, and the visit was coordinated by the Tazel Institute.

The Tazel Institute aims to create a vision for high school African American males who, because of this program, will be exposed to opportunities ranging from the classroom to the boardroom. While on campus, the students were given a tour by Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) and Student African American Sisterhood (SAAS) volunteers. Guest speakers included Stanley Jackson of the Minnesota Timberwolves and attorneys Christopher Fowlkes and Lee A. Hutton III who highlighted making good choices, navigating high school and the benefits of gaining a college education. One student told event organizers that “I never met an African American male attorney in person, let alone two.”

Participating MCTC departments include College Now, the Diversity office, Power of YOU and Student Life.

Pearl Christenson DREAM Memorial Fund

Posted on: October 26th, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

Pearl-Christenson-200Pearl Christenson was the child of Norwegian immigrants and lived the American dream of opportunity. Together with her husband Jerry, she raised a family of six children with the fundamental belief that access to education is the key to success for all who call America home, including immigrants.

Pearl was an early and consistent supporter of Power of YOU, a program which covers the cost of attending Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) or St. Paul College for two years for Minneapolis, St. Paul, and inner suburban high school graduates. She also understood the critical challenges facing our new immigrants, knowing that 24% of students now in Minneapolis public schools are immigrants and refugees. She was amazed to learn that 60% of the 2015 nursing graduates from MCTC were born outside the U.S. Additionally, she cared deeply for students who have come to the U.S. as children but have “undocumented” status, which poses great barriers to pursuing college and the American dream. She was fascinated with MCTC’s effort to provide special scholarships for these undocumented DREAMers.

This year, MCTC is piloting scholarship support for a special cohort of seventeen Power of YOU students who are otherwise ineligible for governmental aid because of their undocumented status. The Christenson family can think of no greater way to honor Pearl and her life of commitment to education and opportunity. You can learn how to contribute your support to the Pearl Christenson DREAM Memorial Fund by clicking All of us who love Pearl thank you.

See Pearl’s obituary here. She passed away in October, 2015.

Our Voices: Thulani Jwacu, Advising for Success

Posted on: May 27th, 2015 by marketingworkstudy No Comments

Thulani-storySeeing Students Through to Success

“It’s not enough to give students access to college,” said Thulani Jwacu, Power of YOU advisor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. “We want to see them graduate, and that takes a lot of support and individual attention.”

When Thulani started working at the MCTC Library in 2005, he was a fresh graduate from Metro State University, and received a crash course in offering student support. “I saw first-hand what an MCTC student’s academic experience is like,” he said. He found himself tutoring, orienting students to technology and mentoring work study students. “I had an opportunity to work with students to go beyond what they were learning in the classroom.”

The experience was inspiring. “I became interested in how we teach students to succeed outside the classroom. It’s more than just being present; students need help developing broader skills.”

Thulani has taken those lessons and experiences with him. Last year he transitioned into his current role as a Power of YOU advisor, and works one-on-one with recent high school graduates who are the first in their families to go to college. “What attracted me to Power of YOU is the curriculum,” he said. “It’s intended to help students become scholars—to turn them from high school students to successful scholars who transition from MCTC to a four-year college or a job.”

The Power of YOU curriculum is dependent on passion like Thulani’s. The program—almost 10 years old and one of the first in the state of Minnesota—offers free tuition to qualifying students and centers on academic support as a key to student success. Students meet one-on-one with advisors to plan their courses, make sure they meet deadlines and maintain a manageable workload. “The support makes it possible for a lot of high school students, who wouldn’t have previously thought of attending college, to become success stories,” said Thulani. “We’re giving access and support to many students in our immediate community.”

The Power of YOU enrolled around 250 students in the 2014–2015 school year, and the program continues to grow. “We’re focused on building relationships with students,” said Thulani. “Knowing that they have someone in their corner to guide them through the intricacies of being a college student is of great comfort.”

Published May 2015

Who Benefits the Most from “Free” College Tuition? (Article from the Star Tribune)

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

This article was published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Jan. 28, 2015. Read the full story here.

Who benefits the most from ‘free’ college tuition?

Article by: MAURA LERNER , Star Tribune | Updated: January 28, 2015

Thulani Jwacu understands the power of the word “free.”

When he makes his pitch to low-income teenagers, he can see their eyes light up.

If they go to community college, he tells them, “you don’t have to worry about paying for tuition.”

That, he said, is when they start paying attention.

As an adviser at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Jwacu said he’s thrilled that politicians are starting to talk about making community college free for all.

In practice, more than 30,000 community college students in Minnesota already qualify for enough government assistance to pay their tuition and fees in full, according to state data. In 2013, that meant about a third of the freshmen at those colleges essentially got their education “for free.”

If the sticker price at Minnesota community colleges — about $5,400 a year — dropped to zero, advocates say, that would inspire even more people to get a college education.

But experts caution that free tuition isn’t enough to guarantee success; and that such a change could end up doing more for well-off families than needier ones.

“The irony is that it would probably benefit middle- and upper-income people,” said John (Chuck) Chalberg, a history teacher at Normandale Community College. “They’re the ones that aren’t getting the aid, and now they would.”

The proposals, which were floated recently by the White House and Senate DFL leaders in Minnesota, are both designed to lower the barrier to college, says Sara Goldrick-Rab, a University of Wisconsin professor who is credited with inspiring President Obama’s plan, estimated to cost $6 billion a year.

“Yes, community college tuition is virtually free for very poor people right now,” she acknowledged. But “middle-class [students] are dropping out of college at higher rates than ever before. So helping middle-class kids … is not a bad thing.”

At the same time, she’s skeptical that community colleges, which draw a disproportionate number of low-income students, would suddenly be flooded with the wealthy.

DFL Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, the sponsor of the free-tuition proposal in the Minnesota Senate, said his goal is to nudge students who think they can’t afford college, especially in low-income and rural areas, to give it a try.

One option, he said, may be to include a cap on family income.

Gov. Mark Dayton did not include free community college tuition in his budget proposal this week. Instead, he withheld any recommendation on a funding increase for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities until March, in hopes that administrators and faculty leaders resolve a dispute over a strategic plan for the system, which includes state community colleges.

Since 2006, the community colleges in Minneapolis and St. Paul have offered free tuition to high school graduates in both cities through a program called Power of You, which is limited to families earning $75,000 or less. At first, both two-year colleges saw a surge in enrollment; but only 8 percent of those students had finished three years later, a 2009 Wilder Foundation study found.

As a result, the colleges began working even more intensively with those students, said Kristine Snyder, the dean in charge of the program at MCTC. “We make them come in three times a semester,” she said. Advisers spend a lot of time coaching them on what they need to do to finish — or transfer — on time.

With all the extra attention, the graduation rate has crept up, to 13 percent. But more important, Snyder says, students are sticking with the program, and making progress toward their degrees.

Many of those students, she noted, wouldn’t have attempted college in the past. “Everyone is worried because we need a skilled labor force,” she said. To her, free tuition is a way to meet that need.

“I think all these kinds of conversations help to shift the narrative of who college is for, and why.”

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384

Graco Grant Provides MCTC with Scholarships, Equipment

Posted on: June 24th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

Graco and MCTC form industry partnerships.A generous donation from Graco, Inc. will provide Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) with three pieces of machining equipment as well as $10,000 in scholarship funds for first-generation college students.

Long-term industry partnerships with local businesses have been fostered by members of the MCTC faculty, and have enabled the College’s Machine Tool Technology program to maintain updated technology for its students. “Our connections with Graco have allowed MCTC’s program to stay relevant,” said Machine Tool Technology Instructor Kim Munson.

Funds from this grant will allow the program to acquire three pieces of equipment: the Mazak CNC machine and simulators will allow students to virtually design and test machining parts for functionality. “Students will have the opportunity to better their knowledge of machining with this equipment,” said Munson. “It’s where the industry is going.”

In addition to the equipment, Graco is providing scholarship funds for Power of YOU students enrolled at MCTC. The Power of YOU program covers the costs of tuition and fees for two years for students who have families with low incomes, are first-generation college students or identify as students of color. Read about recent scholarship winners here.

“Having access to state-of-the-art equipment will make a profound impact on Machine Tool Technology students’ abilities to enhance their education and better prepare them to join the workforce after graduation,” said Angie Wordell, operations director at Graco. Angie was responsible for establishing a summer internship program placing MCTC Machine Tool Technology students with Graco—a partnership which could lead to a path to employment for some hard-working students.
“Several of my students through the years have gone on to be hired at Graco,” said Munson. “This internship program creates a pathway that strengthens our students’ connection to industry jobs.”

Photo: Angie Wordell, Graco operations director; Kim Munson, MCTC Machine Tool Technology Instructor; Mike Christenson, MCTC associate vice president of Workforce Development.