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It’s January, and we are excited to begin a new year and a new semester. We officially welcomed nearly 4,000 students to the start of spring term on Jan. 8, an 8% increase over last spring semester. We’re offering more than 250 courses, of which 49% percent have an on-campus component, and 51% percent are delivered online. A big thank you to our students, faculty, and staff for creating a vibrant and engaged community on and off campus!

January is also the start of the 2024 legislative session. Thank you to our elected representatives who will begin reviewing, discussing, and allocating funds toward capital requests. Minnesota State, which is comprised of 26 colleges and 7 universities with 54 campuses throughout the state, is requesting $200 million for asset preservation and $341.4 million for capital improvements. In addition, Minnesota State is requesting $61 million in supplemental funding, which if fully funded, North Hennepin Community College would receive $1.7 million to support increases in campus expenses resulting from compensation and other cost increases over the biennium.

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers. What’s more telling is the impact these state investments have on the lives of our students! At the conclusion of the 2023 legislative session, North Hennepin received $990,000 to update the college’s cooling towers. This project is in the design phase, and work is expected to be completed by summer 2025. In addition, the college received $2.4 million in one-time funding to offer more tailored mental health care to students, including a recovery group, and a student parent support group. The funds have also allowed us to provide gift cards for groceries, gas and/or bus transportation to help decrease student barriers to attending classes.

Another outcome of the 2023 session was the North Star Promise Scholarship Program, a tuition-free path to a college education for eligible Minnesota residents starting fall 2024. The NSP is a last-dollar program, which means it will cover all tuition and eligible fee costs that remain after scholarships, grants, and tuition waivers have been applied. This is an incredible opportunity for learners of all ages to start or return to college to finish their degree and improve their lives and their communities. For more information, visit nhcc.edu/nsp.

We know college is more than classroom education. NHCC’s Department of Theatre, Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Student Life proudly present Stages of Equity 2024, a spring visual and performing arts festival that raises up the powerful work of BIPOC visual and performing artists. Monthly events, including exhibits, live performances, and workshops are scheduled from January through April and are free and open to the community.

This month features the work of Peyton Scott Russell who combines the traditions of plein air painting with graffiti in a new style he is calling plein aire graffiti. The exhibit is open now through Jan. 24, and concludes with a free workshop. Visit nhcc.edu/soe for a complete schedule of events and to register.

On Feb. 7, we also invite you to attend NHCC’s 7th annual JazzFest. This year’s concert will feature contemporary jazz artist Aubrey Logan. The concert is free and open to the community, however advance registration is encouraged at nhcc.edu/jazzfest.

Save the date for Feb. 13 when we recognize Black History Month with a keynote and performance, “Celebrate 50 years of Hip Hop with Terrell X,” in the Center for Business & Technology.

Rolando García is president of North Hennepin Community College. Send commentary to rolando.garcia@nhcc.edu.

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