At semester’s end, the “Partners in Higher Education” campus in Apple Valley will have one less partner — and some students aren’t happy about it.
After December, Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) will no longer offer classes at the satellite campus, a collaborative site owned by the city of Apple Valley that once hosted Inver Hills Community College and St. Mary’s University of Minnesota classes, too.
DCTC is pulling out because it has unused space on its Rosemount campus and offers more and more of its programs at least partly online, said Tim Wynes, Inver Hills president and DCTC interim president.
Programs currently offered at the Apple Valley site, primarily business-oriented degrees and certificates, will be offered at the main DCTC campus in Rosemount beginning in January, and those programs’ faculty will also move, Wynes said.
“The bottom line is, given the space that’s available here at the Rosemount campus … it wasn’t in the best interest of either our students or the college, in terms of the taxpayers” to continue offering classes in Apple Valley, Wynes said.
Inver Hills left the site, which has existed for 10 years, about a year ago, Wynes said, but St. Mary’s still holds classes there.
Kelly Murtaugh, vice president of academic and student affairs at DCTC, said that the college needs less space than in the past because there are more online and hybrid courses now.
Leaving Apple Valley will save DCTC about $350,000 annually in leasing costs, Murtaugh said. “That’s a pretty significant savings,” she said.
Wynes said that the decision will affect about 150 students enrolled in either a face-to-face or hybrid class in Apple Valley. DCTC enrolls about 3,000 students each term, he added.
Both Wynes and Murtaugh believe that requiring students to switch to Rosemount will ultimately benefit them, because making the move “integrates students better into the overall population of the college,” Wynes said.
The main campus also has more student resources, such as a full library, a larger computer lab, peer tutoring and a wellness center, Murtaugh said.
But some students aren’t looking forward to the move. Kathryn Lusack said she’s concerned about her ability to finish her management program in Rosemount because transportation is difficult for her.
The Apple Valley site, located on Cedar Avenue, is easily accessible by bus on the Red Line, but there’s no public transportation available to Rosemount, Lusack said. Closing the Apple Valley site, which is about 10 miles from the Rosemount campus, will adversely affect disabled and poor students, who may not have access to cars, she said.
Lusack is also frustrated with the timeline of the decision, she said. Had students known sooner that the campus could close, some wouldn’t have started or continued their programs at DCTC, she said. She and about 25 other students may organize a protest, she said.
Wynes said the closing has been discussed openly since before he took his post in July, but Murtaugh said the final decision was made more recently. Students received an e-mail on Sept. 22.
“They knew in the summer that this was a possibility and they didn’t give us a chance to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay,’ ” Lusack said. “Effectively, they’ve taken my money and other students’ money and didn’t tell us.”
An online petition on Change.org calls for the campus to remain open until May 2015 so students can finish their degrees, or at least the end of the school year, so they can make other arrangements. As of midweek last week, it had 40 signatures.
Wynes said that he’s aware a few students may have issues with transportation, but he hopes they can be resolved. “We’ll work to help students finish their degree,” he said. “We’ll see what we can figure out to get them over here.”
Murtaugh said they have “tried to get buses out here in the past,” but there were never enough riders to sustain a route.
Murtaugh said if students can’t find a way to Rosemount or don’t want to continue there, “We can also help them look for other options.”