Although dealing with the pandemic has changed many things at Minnesota State College Southeast, much of the news from the college is good, according to Interim President Larry Lundblad.

“Our enrollments for spring semester were up 6.5%,” Lundblad said. “The majority of colleges and universities in the Minnesota State system -- 25 out of 37 -- were experiencing a decrease. We are attributing some of this success to staffing changes that have improved our high school outreach, better marketing, expanded recruiting streamlined admission processes, and outreach to incumbent workers.”

Lundblad said MSCSE also reached an important milestone when it was able to restore the fund balance to meet Minnesota State and Higher Learning Commission requirements.

“To be fiscally sound, according to the Higher Learning Commission, you need to have a reserve, and for us, that is 20% of our annual budget,” Lundblad explained. “Since we’ve restored the fund balance to what it should be, we can now spend that money we were putting in there on other things.”

Head start with online

The COVID-19 crisis caused the college to move most of its classes into an online format. Lundblad said that 40% of the college’s classes were already online or had online components, so they had a head start. Some of the classes that require shops and labs had a more difficult time making that transition.

“In the face of the pandemic, all of our faculty and staff were innovative, resourceful, and quickly adapted to alternative ways of delivering instruction, services, and doing their jobs,” Lundblad said. “Experienced online faculty mentored their peers and helped them with the transition.”

The college continues to apply for and receive grants to expand programs, buy equipment, develop curriculum, and add to the capacity of the college, according to Lundblad. Two significant grants they have received are from the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership and the National Science Foundation.

On the Winona campus of MSCSE, a group called the Winona Advanced Manufacturing Infrastructure Initiative, a collection of local businesses, has helped raise funds to support college programs. Lundblad said that efforts to start a similar program in Red Wing are underway.

While the college made many successful efforts to move classes online in response to the pandemic, there are concerns about the long term effects. With the future of fall classes unknown, Lundblad said it is difficult for college officials to estimate enrollments and plan budgets for next year.

Lundblad said that some students are “delaying their decision to enroll until they know the college will be open for face-to-face instruction this fall. If we can’t open in the fall, then students that were expecting to be on campus, especially in the trade and technical areas, may decide to sit out a semester or wait a year.

In spite of the pandemic and its effects on the MSCSE campus, Lundblad said that this was a productive year for the college.

“We are excited that things have been moving forward,” he said. “We are looking forward to next year as we continue to build on our successes.”