Crookston staff receive even higher ed

Crookston faculty and staff who go back to school for another degree will have up to 75 percent of their tuition reimbursed.

Christopher Aadland

For University of Minnesota-Crookston agronomy lecturer Rob Proulx, earning a doctorate degree is challenging.

He’s working toward the higher degree through the University of North Dakota, which is about 25 miles from the lecturer’s home campus, but it’s what he said is his best and closest option for achieving his educational goals.

And Proulx isn’t alone in recognizing the difficulty of obtaining a higher degree while working on the Crookston campus. Last month, a Board of Regents committee discussed a new pilot program that provides the Crookston faculty and staff members with an incentive to pursue master’s and doctorate degrees, considering their campus’ location and resources.

The new program — which reimburses the cost of tuition for some faculty and staff members who wish to pursue a higher degree — aims to recruit and retain faculty and staff members, as well as give students a better on-campus experience because they’re learning from more qualified professors.

“We want to invest in you,” Crookston Chancellor Fred Wood said. “But we want you to invest in the institution by staying with us.”

He said the pilot program will reimburse up to 75 percent of participants’ tuition costs, capping individual allocations at $20,000 over four years.

Wood said he hopes to start the program’s application process this week. It will run until the end of 2019, which is when the Board of Regents will evaluate its success and consider its renewal.

The University of Minnesota-Crookston currently employs more than 200 people, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

To take advantage of the University’s Regents Scholarship Program, which reimburses employees for enrollment costs at the school, Crookston faculty and staff members would have to travel to the Twin Cities and Duluth campus.

“It’s clear based on our geographical location that there are some things we miss out on, and I think that Regents Scholarship is one,” Proulx said.

But unlike the Regents Scholarship, Crookston employees who are accepted into the program can choose any accredited institution to pursue their higher degree, Wood said.

And while the program would largely benefit faculty and staff members, it could also positively impact students, Proulx said.

“With every additional post-graduate degree, it helps to broaden perspectives,” he said. “Especially earning a doctorate, it can help [staff and faculty members] get a little more solid footing in doing some research.”

About three or four employees are expected to use the program in its first two years, and five or six during the last two years, according to Board of Regents documents.

“We’re eager to be able to provide our students with faculty and staff that have obtained advanced degrees and have long-time commitments to the campus,” Wood said.

Board of Regents Chair Richard Beeson said the program is practical.

“It’s a practical solution to an issue — which is really all about retaining talent at the staff and faculty level — and how … we do it from a practical standpoint on a very small campus with limited course offerings, when there’s larger institutions in close proximity,” he said.