By Gabe Hewittfirstname.lastname@example.org
MCTC announced on Oct. 27 that the following programs would be suspended: Air Traffic Control, Barbering, Biotechnology, Culinary Arts, Electrical Construction and Technology, and Electroneurodiagnostic Technology (ENDT). It came weeks after the college announced it had made recommendations to suspend the programs.
Suspension means that the college no longer accepts new students into a program and allows the current students to finish. Interim President Avelino Mills-Novoa, Vice President of Academic Affairs Gail O’Kane and the deans began their decision-making process in the summer.
“We looked at all the programs and prioritized them,” Mills-Novoa said. “There are some programs in the green, some programs in the yellow that were on the edge and then programs in the red that were a real concern based on the criteria that we developed.”
Part of the criteria consisted of two statistics, student outcome and efficiency. Student outcome was reflected by the program’s ability to place students into the job market and their success in that field, while efficiency looked at the college’s expenses in relation to the program.
“Some programs were operating at a very high cost and serving a very small number of students,” O’Kane said. “When you combine what [MCTC] gets from the state with what we get in tuition per student, that averages a little over $8000. For some of these programs, they were costing two, three, four times that.”
Air Traffic Control, one of 36 in the country, is unique in terms reasoning for its suspension. Students who graduated from the program were given a preferential interview with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to enter the final part of their training. In late 2013, the FAA decided to discontinue those interviews. MCTC’s Air Traffic Control program saw its enrollment drop from 66 in 2013 to 14 in 2014.
The decision-makers also looked at default rates on student loans for those in the suspended programs. 54 percent of Barbering students defaulted on their loans and 42 percent of Culinary Arts students did the same. Programs with high default rates may be decertified by the federal government meaning that students entering the program may not be eligible for financial aid.
“I see it as problematic that we invite low-income students into programs that were ultimately going to get them into a deeper hole at the other end,” Mills-Novoa said.
Biotechnology, Electroneurodiagnostic Technology and Electrical Construction were graduating few students and were a high cost to the college.
The suspended programs currently have fewer than 400 declared students enrolled in them combined and according to O’Kane, is three percent of MCTC’s student population.
“We were looking at programs that serve a small number of students and that was a critical factor when we were looking at the decisions we were making,” she said. “We wanted to impact the fewest students possible while looking at the programs that have a high cost relative to the number served.”
Suspended programs will go through what is called a teach-out plan. This involves students in the programs making plans with their advisers to finish their degree in a specific timeframe. In order to complete the program in that timeframe, some part-time students may have to start taking courses at a full-time rate. The college is looking at partnering with other institutions to accommodate the students who may not be able to do that.
“As all Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) go forward, what’s going to happen is that there’s going to be more and more partnerships,” Mills-Novoa said. “We’re going to have situations where each institution can’t have their own standalone kinds of programs. We’re going to be looking at working together to deliver programs that so that they can be available for students.”
Merry Lucas, adviser to Barbering, Culinary Arts and ENDT, is expecting each one of her students’ plans to be different from the next.
“Myself and the other advisors will be working to make each of our students an individualized plan to complete their program in a timely fashion,” she said. “That may mean having to add an extra class or two each semester.
Albert Mahone is a Culinary Arts student and knows transferring to St. Paul College’s program may be in his future.
“It’s a frustrating situation,” he said. “[MCTC] knew, before I even started attending this school, that they couldn’t pay for these programs.”
Barbering, which graduated five students in 2013, currently has 20 students enrolled in its program and according to instructor Josh Kirkpatrick, there’s nearly 70 students on a waiting list.
“A lot of my students were upset,” he said. “Even though they’ll be able to finish, it reflects on the future of the barber industry.”
As the only Barbering instructor, he’s unsure of his future once his final students graduate in Spring 2014. One of those students, Anthony Lewis, has been in barbering for over 30 years and said this decision is going to change a lot of lives.
“A lot of people that are coming from messed up backgrounds are trying to change their lives and get into Barbering to help with that,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair for future students who are trying to be part of the good part of society and not the bad.”
The Student Senate passed a resolution on Oct. 22 that stated their support to keep the Barbering program. Hours before the official announcement was made, students gathered for a rally in the T Plaza.
“As faculty and students, we are all connected,” student Felicia Hamilton said. “If there’s no students, there’s nobody to teach.”
The college held two listening sessions facilitated by some involved with the final decision before it was made. The sessions were intended to answer any questions that students had regarding the suspensions. One Barbering student at a session accused the college of making racially-charged decisions regarding the suspensions.
“That certainly was not the case,” Mills-Novoa said. “I also understand why that concern is there.”
Mills-Novoa said he wants to move forward and make the college stronger and financially stable while affecting the fewest number of students possible with the suspensions.