Summer classes skirt shutdown at Riverland

Published 8:54 am Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Schools still not immune to effects of funds fight

Riverland Community College officials and students probably won’t have to worry about an upcoming government shutdown. They’ll get to stay in school.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System received word from Gov. Mark Dayton’s office last week that it can have access to its funds through Minnesota Management and Budget in the event of a shutdown. Although the agreement isn’t official, MnSCU and Riverland officials were confidant an agreement would be reached by Tuesday.

“We’re all very comforted … that students are going to be accommodated,” said Ron Langrell, Riverland’s Executive Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs. “Those are individuals who in many cases are spending their own money to be able to go to school.”

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MnSCU officials were worried in early June that a government shutdown would affect more than 67,000 students who are taking summer classes this year. They hoped the MMB, the state’s catch-all department for employee and treasury services, would allow them access to MnSCU funds in order to remain open. Since the MnSCU system only operates on revenue earned from tuition, college staff and faculty could be paid through MnSCU funds and still be considered state employees.

“We are deeply appreciative of the governor’s action to support uninterrupted instruction and services at the state colleges and universities,” said MnSCU Chancellor James H. McCormick in a statement last week.

Yet instruction and services aren’t safe yet. If a shutdown becomes a prolonged squabble, higher education officials don’t know what the effects will be, specifically with student enrollment and scheduling. Langrell said MnSCU officials were confident their funds would last sometime into the fall semester, but colleges and universities may not be able to collect tuition if a shutdown lasts for longer than a month.

No one is sure how fall semester enrollment would work if a shutdown would last into August, when enrollment, registration and scheduling are usually finalized.

“It certainly impacts the way parents and students are planning for enrollment,” Langrell said.