Apple Valley education center loses another partner

Dakota County Technical College to move courses from Apple Valley to Rosemount

Partners in Higher Education may have to drop the first word in the name of the post-secondary school in Apple Valley after it was announced that Dakota County Technical College would no longer be offering classes there when the first semester ends in December.

Some students at the school are fighting the college’s decision and petitioning to keep the site open until the current class graduates in 2015 or at least the end of the 2013-14 school year.

College officials say classes and instructors will move to the main Rosemount campus as another cost-cutting measure that another partner, Inver Hills Community College, made in 2012 when it discontinued courses at the site.

St. Mary’s University is expected to be the lone partner left in January 2014 unless others are found.

Gena Bilden, associate vice president at St. Mary’s, says the university is committed to the site and is negotiating with the city of Apple Valley, which owns the former city hall building at 14200 Cedar Ave., on a lease agreement for 2014.

Bilden said St. Mary’s was subleasing its space from DCTC.

She said the university would be open to working with other partners, saying some have indicated interest.

Bilden said DCTC officials kept the university informed as it went through its decision-making process.

Students irked

Current students who would have their classes moved to Rosemount say the location would prevent them from attending because it is too far from their residences and is not located on a bus route.

“The majority of students chose the campus because it is near our home, work, is located near major highways, and is on major bus lines,” their petition posted at said. “We chose to attend a small satellite campus because we like knowing our fellow students, the location, and the personal service that we each have discovered is lacking at DCTC’s main campus and other colleges we checked before coming here.”

Kathryn Lusack, of Burnsville, said she wouldn’t be able to take the business management courses she needs in order to complete her individualized study degree because they are held too late in the day for her to reliably reach her son’s Savage child care by its mandatory pick-up time.

“That will cause a hardship for me,” she said.

Lusack, speaking on behalf of several students, said they feel misled by the college since they say they can’t transfer the technical college’s credits to another school.

She said she feels students should have been informed of the decision at the beginning of the school year, so they could have moved to a different school.

“For the first-time students who came here because of bus availability, if they had known there was a possibility it would close or could close they wouldn’t have come here,” Lusack said.

Lusack says she needs 14 more credits or five more courses to complete her degree, which she started working toward three years ago.

She said some of the students “got wind” of the DCTC decision before it was formally announced to students in a Sept. 22 email. The semester started Aug. 26.

“As students, alumni, or friends/family of DCTC students, we are offended that college administration failed to actively engage us in any discussions regarding potential campus closure before decisions were made,” the petition letter said. “An effort to try to shut down this campus mid-year is unconscionable.”

The newspaper was unable to connect with Tim Wynes, interim DCTC president and president of Inver Hills, before this edition went to press.

He told the Star Tribune that the move was made because the Rosemount site has unused space where the classes will be moved along with the faculty who teach those courses.

He said the decision affects about 150 students, according to the Star Tribune story, and that the college will work with students to finish their degrees and address transportation issues.

A bus line that goes to DCTC has been something that’s been talked about for years.

He told the Star Tribune that students will benefit from the move by integrating them into the overall population of the college.

This isn’t the only cost-cutting measure Dakota County Technical College has had to make in recent years.

Since 2011, the college’s budget has been trimmed by 32 percent from $52.19 million to $35.07 million projected in the fiscal year 2014 budget released in June 2013, according to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities documents.

Most of those reductions have been made in operating costs not related to personnel as officials have attempted to maintain instructional staff.

Full-year equivalent student units at the college dropped from 2,549 in 2011 to 2,475 in 2012. FYEs are expected to be 2,500 for the 2013-14 school year.

St. Mary’s

Bilden said St. Mary’s serves approximately 400 students in Apple Valley. That number has grown since the Partners site was opened 10 years ago, according to Bilden.

“It has been a growth area for us,” Bilden said.

The university offers about 30 courses each semester with summer months having a slight increase since many of the courses are for graduate work for secondary education teachers.

The university also offers bachelor and graduate courses in business education and health care.

She said the university has worked well with the community college partners in Rosemount and Inver Grove Heights, including accepting those colleges’ associate degree credits toward St. Mary’s bachelor degree programs.