Posted: January 9, 2006

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

An innovative program that makes the first two years of college available tuition free for spring 2006 graduates of Minneapolis or Saint Paul public high schools was announced today at a special kickoff event at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. This bold initiative, called the "Power of You" - the only one of its kind in Minnesota - is designed to significantly increase the post-secondary participation rates of these students, particularly students of color. To participate, students must also be residents of the cities of Minneapolis or Saint Paul.

The "Power of You" program is a collaboration of Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), Saint Paul College, and Metropolitan State University in conjunction with the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Public Schools, the endorsement of the Minnesota Business Partnership and philanthropic partners. The program will launch at MCTC and Saint Paul College in fall of 2006 and at Metropolitan State University in the fall of 2007. All of the colleges are members of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. This five-year pilot program will provide students with access to a spectrum of academic programs and career pathways at the three colleges.

"Minnesota's fastest growing populations have the lowest high school graduation and postsecondary education participation rates. This program is designed to make a significant difference in the number of students of color who earn a college education," said Phillip L. Davis, president, MCTC. "The program will support as many students as possible based on student need and funds available. It is anticipated that the program will serve 200 students the first year of the program. It will provide a path for more students to help themselves achieve the education that is now essential for a sustainable career in our society."

In Minnesota, students of color drop out of high school at rates far out of proportion to their enrollment. "Mind the Gap", an October 2005 study commissioned by a business coalition known as the Itasca Project, acknowledges the robust economy and social fabric of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, but documents wide disparities in income, home ownership, education and other crucial indicators. The report concludes that the overall health of the region masks stark disparities, which can impact economic competitiveness.

"A key strategy to help 'close the gap' is to make college and job-training more affordable and available," said Wilson Bradshaw, president of Metropolitan State University, which has campuses in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Bradshaw spoke at the kick-off event along with Donovan Schwichtenberg, president of Saint Paul College, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. Also at the event were representatives from the three participating colleges and about 100 high school seniors from Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools. The program is designed to:

  • Overcome the real and perceived financial barriers to a college education
  • Raise awareness that a college education is essential to earning a living wage
  • Increase the number of Minneapolis and Saint Paul public high school graduates who enroll in college and complete a degree.

"These days, postsecondary education is required for success in today's economic environment and solid educational preparation must be offered to all," according to Davis. "More than 72 percent of the students in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul public school districts are considered students of color (73 percent in Minneapolis and 72 percent in Saint Paul). We cannot afford to 'write-off' the fastest growing segment of the population. We need to prepare all students to succeed."

A March 2005 study conducted by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities showed that a great number of students must overcome large obstacles to earn post-secondary degrees. It concluded that to ensure a well-educated citizenry and workforce, the community should make it easier, not harder for students.

Through a combination of financial incentives, outreach, and support, the program will demonstrate that it is possible to raise the expectations and the achievement levels of urban students, prepare them for access and success in college, and put them on the path to productive careers and community involvement. Over $450,000 has already been secured for the 'Power of You' program through generous gifts from General Mills, St. Paul Traveler's and the Perlman Family Foundation. Approximately three million dollars will be raised from private and government grants to pilot the project for five years. Partner institutions and community organizations will also support the initiative with an additional $2.8 million.