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AUSTIN EDITION Grant money helps fill Riverland budget gaps

By Jim Troyer

jtroyer@postbulletin.com

Federal, state and local grants help Riverland Community College meet its goals, although they are not a cure for a reduction of state funds, according to the school's president, Gary L. Rhodes.

"Colleges and universities have limited options for dealing with funding cuts in the short term -- mainly, cuts in educational programs and increases in tuition," Rhodes said.

Last month, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities board of trustees approved an 11.4 percent increase in tuition and fees for the college.

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"With limited budget dollars, we must explore all of our options to ensure that we minimize the impact on students as much as possible but do not compromise on quality," Rhodes said.

Grants are one of those options.

"Grant funding will help us, but it is not a panacea," Riverland's grant writer, Susan Moore, agreed.

First of all, the college has to have the resources to do the job the program aims to do, she said. Then the school's business office has to keep track of how the money is being used. What's more, most grantors require matching funds, or at least a match in the value of in-kind services.

Planning is the key, Moore said.

"Proposal grant writing is 80 percent planning and only 20 percent writing. It is important to get the people who are going to be involved in the project involved up front."

In addition to the grants office, the college has received funding from the Riverland Community College Foundation through Program Enhancement Grants awarded to faculty and staff.

"We also receive funding, as well as non-case donations, from local businesses and individuals," Rhodes said.

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Last fiscal year, the college received more than $187,000 in non-cash donations and more than $25,000 in grants. The following are some recent grants and donations:

Construction Electrician Trade -- "Expanding Options for Women" grant, $3,000 from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the Minnesota Department of Children Families and Learning. The money will support the entry of women into the program.

$10,000 "Challenge America" grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to establish partnerships among art organizations in the area.

A Center for Learning grant of nearly $7,000 allowed instructor Howard Kittleson to develop a compact disk as a resource for online students.

Mack Trucks Inc. donated a 350 horsepower engine valued at more than $25,000 to the Riverland Community College truck diesel mechanics program.

Riverland International and English as a Second Language students received a donation of 30 refurbished bicycles from Owatonna resident Jerry Wesely.

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