Students in the University’s General College are eligible for a range of services: tutoring in math and writing, study skills courses and academic counseling. Such services are expected from a school designed to help underprepared students find their way through college.
But General College also allows the University to collect millions of dollars from outside sources for programs that are mostly unrelated to the development of its own students.
Because the college focuses on developmental education — building literacy and study skills through advising, tutoring and other services — programs housed in the college attract grants from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, Hennepin County and other sources.
“It’s a perfect fit,” said Bruce Schelske, who administers Student Support Services, a popular branch of the TRIO program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
Twenty years ago, General College hosted one federally funded program — Upward Bound, a community outreach program that prepared area high school students for college.
Today, the college hosts at least 10 programs that are sponsored by outside sources, most of which target youth in the metro community. This year’s cost: $1.6 million.
Not surprisingly, the growth — perhaps even the survival — of these programs hinges on the future of General College, a prime target for elimination because of the low graduation rate among its students.
Schelske and his wife, Sharyn Schelske, who administers two other TRIO programs — Upward Bound and McNair Scholars — acknowledge that financial support could dry up if General College is closed.
“I would think the University would still want to retain the TRIO program, although I can’t say that for sure,” said Sharyn Schelske. “My assumption is that the U would still want to be committed to community outreach and the educating of first-generation students.”
About 250 General College students qualify for help from Student Support Services. McNair Scholars serves a handful of General College students planning to attend graduate school.
The other sponsored programs, however, mainly serve local high school students. Information gleaned from these programs can be used for academic research or to develop more effective teaching methods.
Bruce Schelske said community outreach programs are an important part of General College’s commitment to serving an underprivileged population of students.
“These aren’t free-standing programs. They have to be integrated into some academic department,” he said. “The fact that (the College of Liberal Arts) didn’t write grants for these programs might say something about what it sees as the mission of a land grant institution.”