As students head back to classes at most Minnesota state colleges and universities Monday, Robert O. Erickson will head off to college, too, on his bicycle to visit each of the system's campuses.
Departing at 8:30 a.m. Monday from Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids, Erickson will pedal 2,300 miles to raise scholarship money for part-time students and to make the case for changing Minnesota's financial aid program to recognize the needs of part-time students.
"Part-time students will be hardest hit by tuition increases this fall because they typically don't qualify for financial aid," Erickson said. "These students don't carry a full load of classes because they are often juggling family, work and other obligations. Adjustments to Minnesota's 20-year-old financial aid program are long overdue."
He will ride 63 miles Sept. 10 to campuses in this area. His itinerary calls for him to ride from Alexandria Technical College to Northwest Technical College in Wadena and on to the Staples campus of Central Lakes College, staying overnight in Staples.
The next day, Sept. 11, he is scheduled to leave the Staples campus at 8 a.m. for a three-hour ride to the Brainerd campus (29 miles) and on to St. Cloud (64 miles) overnight before visiting St. Cloud State University and St. Cloud Technical College on Sept. 12.
Last year, Erickson completed the same tour and raised $79,000 in scholarships for part-time adult MnSCU students.
As a former board member and chair of the finance and facilities committee of the Board of Trustees for MnSCU, Erickson understands the complex financial workings of Minnesota's public higher education systems. He served as senior vice president for finance and operations for the University of Minnesota from 1991 to 1995 and worked as a senior executive for SuperValu for 16 years.
Erickson, 57, is currently serving on the board of the MnSCU Foundation and again is funding the trip at his own expense.
Pedaling from campus to campus in his neon yellow gear emblazoned with "Minnesota State Colleges and Universities," Erickson will solicit donations for his scholarship challenge. Contributions can be designated to individual colleges and universities or to the MnSCU Foundation, where they will be applied entirely to student scholarships.
"Minnesota has everything to gain by helping these hard-working, enterprising students get an education," Erickson said. "This state has long valued higher education, but the definition and the demographics of our college students are changing and we're currently leaving too many people behind."
For more information or to make a pledge, visit www.mnscu.edu
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