The MCTC News Blog

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.

Two MCTC Machine Tool Technology Students Receive $3,000 Scholarships

Posted on: June 11th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments

Graco scholarship winnersMinnesota-based Graco, a leading provider of premium pumps and spray equipment for fluid handling in the construction, manufacturing, processing and maintenance industries, provided scholarships to two Power of YOU students in Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s (MCTC) Machine Tool Technology program. The goal of the scholarships is to set students on the path to productive careers in metal manufacturing and processing industries. Micheal Esposito and Sophia Kuusisto were chosen to receive grants in the amount of $3,000 each.

“Together, Graco and MCTC recognize manufacturing is critical to the U.S. economy, and people are needed at every level of an organization from running state-of-the-art machines to leading teams both locally and globally,” said Kim Munson, MCTC Machine Tool Technology faculty. “Entry-level machining positions can pay from $20–$25 per hour, with opportunities to exceed $30 per hour as an individual rises to the top of the pay scale over the course of six to seven years. This scholarship allows Micheal and Sophia to study for a career that has tremendous opportunity for growth.”

Micheal, Graco scholarship recipientMicheal Esposito – Following a Family Tradition

Micheal Esposito follows a long line of family members who worked with their hands. His great grandfather was a machinest and his grandfather a carpenter. When Micheal’s older brother started spending time in the machine shop at South High School, Micheal followed suit. Ultimately, Micheal spent three years working in the school’s shop as a student, classroom aid and mentor.

During his time at South, Micheal found another mentor, former MCTC Postsecondary Education Options student Philip Mestenhauser, who studied Machine Tool Technology at MCTC and now works on the West Coast in the industry. Philip encouraged Micheal’s interest in machine tool and introduced him to Kim Munson. Micheal’s educational career at MCTC took off from there and this fall he’ll begin his second year in the program, working toward his AAS degree.

“I’m committed to the industry and have found I’m gaining solid experience at MCTC for high-demand careers,” said Micheal who aspires to move out west by the fall of 2018 and work as a prototyper. “Prototyping fuels my interest in working on a diversity of projects, I’m thankful for the scholarship which helps make it all possible.”

Sophia, Graco scholarship recipientSophia Kuusisto – Forging a New Path

Sophia Kuusisto’s interest in Machine Tool Technology was sparked in a South High School shop class that promoted the benefits of entering the fields of metals manufacturing and processing. “I always knew the importance of earning a technical degree,” said Sophia who recalls family friends from Germany who shared that everyone in the country was encouraged to have a technical degree before pursuing other interests. “A degree in Machine Tool Technology gives me a solid foundation to pursue many careers including one of my areas of interest: engineering.”

“When I started in the Machine Tool Technology Program, I couldn’t name the average tools you’d find in a toolbox,” said Sophia who now has her own toolbox, courtesy of the Graco scholarship. “I now know the tools of the trade and I’m operating every machine in the shop. Long-term, I have an interest in working as a CNC programmer.”

Sophia strongly encourages women to pursue a degree in the field. “It can be challenging being one of the only women in the shop. However, I’ve had an extremely positive experience in the program,” said Sophia. “MCTC is a great place to study and the education is extremely affordable.”

Read this story and more in the spring 2014 edition of The Groove magazine!

Xcel Energy Foundation Gives $30,000 to MCTC Foundation for Scholarships

Posted on: June 30th, 2011 by insidemctc No Comments
Xcel Energy Foundation

Nasreen Mohamed, Ayan Aware (Power of YOU student), Jeff Custer of Xcel Energy, Dan Brasch, MCTC President Phil Davis, Paul Adelmann of Xcel Energy

The Xcel Energy Foundation recently donated $30,000 to the Minneapolis Community and Technical College Foundation for Power of YOU scholarships. The Power of YOU program provides two years of free college to low‐income high school graduates of Minneapolis and St. Paul public and charter schools.

The Xcel Energy Foundation is a founding funder of the Power of YOU, a program that has tripled the enrollment of recent urban high school graduates enrolling at MCTC and its partner institutions. Overall, the program has had a significant impact on increasing student success and graduation rates, compared to data from similar student groups prior to the Power of YOU program.

Xcel Energy supports programs that enhance and improve student achievement in science, technology, engineering, economics and math. In their current round of grants, 48 programs received $570,500 in funding to support programs for students from kindergarten through college.

“The Xcel Energy Foundation has been a tremendous partner for the Power of You and we are very appreciative of their generosity,” said Reede Webster, executive director of the MCTC Foundation. “In five years, nearly 2000 students have been provided an opportunity to attend college through the Power of YOU program.”