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ISSUE 118 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/8/2004

State explores aid options

By Jean Mullins
News Editor

Friday, October 8, 2004

St. Olaf hosted the Minnesota Senate Higher Education Budget Division for an informal listening session about the state of higher education in Northfield and its surrounding communities on Tuesday.

The meeting began with an address from St. Olaf President Christopher Thomforde, who highlighted the colleges commitment to meeting the financial needs of students. Last year, Thomforde said, the College received $27 to $28 million in student aid.

The session continued with an address from Chris Richardson, superintendent of Northfield public schools. Richardson spoke of the commitment to service which both Carleton and St. Olaf honor in their interactions with Northfield public schools, especially regarding college volunteers, who help with various public school programs. Some of these programs put St. Olaf and Carleton students in teaching positions, while others give college students a chance to mentor younger students.

"We are blessed to have the unique situation of two colleges in the area," Richardson said.

State Rep. Ray Cox spoke to the division next as a local small business owner, stressing the importance of vocational-technical schools to provide workers for businesses. He noted that in recent years, technical schools have lost out to four-year institutions.

Kathy Ruby, director of Financial Aid and interim dean of Admissions, spoke to the panel next, stressing the importance of federal and state financial aid for the College. Even though St. Olaf is a private college, it still depends on the monetary aid of the government to supplement its endowment, which provides some aid to students, she said.

Furthermore, because St. Olaf and Carleton both agree to meet the financial need of anyone accepted to these institutions, financial aid and the Minnesota State Grant are an important part of fulfilling that commitment.

St. Olaf student Salah Mohamed '07 told the story of his familys flight from Somalia during that countrys civil war and of his mothers struggle to get his large family to America.

"The state grant made the difference," Mohammed said.

Finally, the discussion focused on TRIO, a program to help students from lower socio-economic backgrounds enter college and to succeed.

St. Olaf student Victoria Carballo 05 testified to her success through the TRIO program. Her family immigrated to the United States from Argentina, and she grew up in a low-income neighborhood. She had hopes of attending college, but was unsure how to get there.

"Without the TRIO program, I would not be pursuing a higher education today," she said.

At the conclusion of the session, Division Chair Sandra Pappas opened the floor for any audience members to express their thoughts, opinions and questions to the division.

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