Riverland gearing up for big changes

Published 10:32 am Friday, October 16, 2015

ALBERT LEA — To better meet workforce demands and reach out to students, Riverland Community College will see major changes at its campuses in the next few years.

College officials are requesting $7.43 million for these changes and are 18th in line to receive funding through the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. The Senate Capital Investment Committee is slated to visit Albert Lea on Oct. 29 to hear the request.

The Albert Lea campus will become the transportation, trade and industrial education center, relocating the truck driving and collision repair programs from Austin to Albert Lea.

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“We believe Albert Lea is well-suited for that because of Interstate 35 and Interstate 90,” said Riverland President Adenuga Atewologun. “We think it will be a great opportunity for us to market the Albert Lea campus.”

The Austin campus will focus on liberal arts, sciences, agriculture and health care, and the Owatonna campus will focus on business and information systems, along with additive manufacturing, he said.

General courses will be offered in a limited degree at all three campuses.

Atewologun said the changes to Albert Lea’s campus depend on when the college is awarded state bonding dollars.

“We are very optimistic that our legislators understand the dire need for us to improve facilities and attract students to the workforce training,” he said.

The money will go toward renovating nearly 40,000 square feet of space and demolishing a small building on the south part of the campus called the Gateway Building, which has not been used for a few years. About 8,700 square feet of new space will be constructed on the north end of the school, along with a new truck driving range.

The programs benefiting from the project enroll nearly 400 students and are designed to serve underrepresented populations, including veterans and those returning to the workforce, with living-wage jobs in highly-desired programs. The project will benefit many local businesses and industries who hire graduates of the programs.

Atewologun said if bonding money is awarded in the upcoming session, the project will begin in October 2016. It will take two years to complete.

Construction will be done in stages, he said.

The project follows $1.7 million in HVAC upgrades completed this summer.

“It’s a great time to be here in Riverland,” Atewologun said, noting that the college officials are reconnecting with the community and partnering with businesses. “I am very happy that we are on the rebound.”