Riverland Reception School principal: ‘Community schools are about access and opportunity’ – Albert Lea Tribune | Tech US News


Riverland admissions director: ‘Community colleges are all about access and opportunity’

Published at 21:00 Friday, November 11, 2022

Any Supreme Court action related to affirmative action community colleges should not be affected

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court began hearing arguments regarding the use of affirmative action in higher education. The justices heard from six different attorneys about the challenges to the policies at the University of North Carolina and Harvard.

Nel Zellar, Director of Admissions for Riverland Community College

Policies consider race among a number of factors when evaluating management applications. One justice compared affirmative action to a head start in a race, while liberal justices suggested that minority enrollment would decline without affirmative action.

Locally, Nel Zellar, director of admissions for Riverland Community College, said Riverland has an open admissions policy, which she believes every community college has. Race does not matter in admissions either.

“Community colleges are about access and opportunity,” she said. “We believe every student has the opportunity to get a college education, and community colleges are a great way to do that.”

According to Zellar, community colleges did not have a competitive admissions process like other institutions that would consider factors such as GPA, standardized test scores or high school readiness standards.

She described community colleges as inclusive.

She said any students who submit transcripts or GEDs will be accepted into community colleges. Prior to commencement, students may still take assessments to determine course placement.

“We want to make sure students are prepared to succeed in college classes,” she said.

Riverland has an online application — a universal application used by the state of Minnesota and used by all four-year and two-year colleges — that Zellar described as “pretty basic” and included questions about demographics, where the applicant attended high school and whether the applicant attended a previous college. They do not need to complete the preparatory standard questions. Questions about race are used as demographics for things like scholarships or grants.

The University of Minnesota is not part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

In its efforts to remove potential barriers to entry, the Riverland even acknowledged its entry fee years ago.

“College is possible for anyone or most people,” Zellar said. “Sometimes I think [potential students] they think they’re not going to get accepted to college, and the reality is that a lot of those students will get accepted to community college if they … finish high school or get their GED.”

Her colleague echoed her thoughts.

“We do not expect the court’s decision in this case to have any impact on our admissions decisions, as Minnesota state colleges and universities do not use race as an admissions criterion,” said James Douglass, executive director of communications. , media relations and marketing for Riverland, in an email. “We are proud of our position as Minnesota’s most diverse higher education system and of being a beacon of opportunity for our Indigenous communities, communities of color, first-generation families and families across the socioeconomic spectrum.” According to Douglass, it was collective response as part of the Minnesota state system.

Zellar said 26% of RCC’s students are black, which she described as “pretty impressive.” She said the Karen population is the fastest growing population, but the school includes students from Somalia, Sudan and Asians, among others.

“It’s really very diverse,” she said.

She also outlined Minnesota State Equity 2030, a 2019 goal to close educational equity gaps at Minnesota State colleges and universities by 2030.

“We hope to admit the same number, but very importantly … the graduation rate will be the same as the retention rate,” she said.

In the poll, 63% of respondents supported a ban on race in admissions decisions. On the other hand, 64% thought that programs aimed at increasing racial diversity were good.

“As a society, overall equity and inclusion is a big issue,” Zellar said. “The diversity in our communities continues to grow, which is great.

“We have a critical shortage of skilled labor. We need to educate and train all of our citizens to participate in the workforce and earn a living.”

Thomas Erickson, a student at Riverland, said the schools have done a good job of diversifying their campuses, but at the same time felt they could have done a better job. He said he has heard of students being unable to attend school because they sought out certain minorities to meet inclusion requirements.

Student Gage Hanna believed that every student who applied should be accepted and that schools should not be selective.

— The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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