ST. CLOUD TIMES — Student enrollment was down about 12% at St. Cloud Technical and Community College in mid-July, compared to that time in 2019, said college President Annesa Cheek.
Enrollment among Black students and students of color was down even more — 20%.
“It is highly, highly concerning,” Cheek told the St. Cloud Times. “When we think about the future of our region and our community, about the shifting demographics in terms of the growing number of people of color in the community, we know that in order to have a strong, healthy economy, vibrant communities, we need people of color to be successful.”
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit people of color, including students, especially hard in terms of health impacts and economic fallout. And the killing of George Floyd, who was Black, at the hands of Minneapolis Police in May brought racial inequalities into the harsh light of day for review and potential reform.
St. Cloud Technical and Community College has been working to notice inequities and correct them, even before Cheek came on board in 2018. And the Minnesota State system has a plan to eliminate achievement gaps by 2030.
St. Cloud State University is also working address equality.
“We have to, as an institution, think about being anti-racist,” SCSU President Robbyn Wacker said in late July. About one-third of the students at St. Cloud State are people of color and 28% of the student body is eligible for Pell Grants, which require “exceptional financial need.”
Wacker described three facets to being anti-racist, including institution-level policies, employee-level work and student outreach.
SCSU has made “diversity, equity and inclusion” a pillar in the It’s Time plan that redefines the school’s focus in many aspects, including a change from a one-size-fits-all to an individualized approach with students.