Want to Earn More and Spend Less? Enroll in a Community or Technical College

News stories continue to pop up examining the value of a college education, the wisdom of a liberal arts degree, increasing tuition and student debt loads, and myriad other questions around the pursuit of higher education.

Of course, the facts are quite clear: a college education is still a great investment in your future. What isn’t always portrayed, however, is the extraordinary value and earning potential available through a community and technical college education.  The article below appeared in a recent issue of Forbeswoman magazine, and does a nice job of illustrating just how attractive it might be for a budding college student to consider enrolling at a community or technical college.

Forget Four More Years: Why Community College Could Be Your Ticket To Financial Success

Does less classroom time equal a bigger bottom line? New research shows that when it comes to earning big bucks right after graduation, community college graduates have an edge over those with four-year degreesCollegeMeasures analyzed data from three states and found that not only did new graduates of technical or occupational programs outearn their community college peers in non-technical programs, they also outearned bachelor’s degree holders. This on the heels of stats from the Department of Labor from the fall that showed job growth for those with associate’s degrees was outpacing that of more advanced degree holders. The good news doesn’t stop there; the majority of the fastest growing occupations in the US, from dental hygienists to veterinary technologists,  require only a community college education.

In these sluggish economic times and in light of sky-high unemployment for four-year grads, community college has become an increasingly attractive and affordable option. In 2010 – 2011, the average community college student paid $2713 in tuition - a tenth of the tuition expense shouldered by students at private four-year colleges. Students at community colleges also received, on average, $1700 in Pell Grant aid to offset these tuition fees. While community college tuition costs did  rise 2.7% during 2010 – 2011, this was still less than half of the increase at private four-year schools.

Enrollment has reflected this educational bargain, increasing for seven consecutive years during and after the Great Recession and finally dipping only in 2010 – 2011. Completion rates have also been on the rise, having grown 127% between 1989 and 2010. Not only is community college a more affordable option for cash-strapped high school grads unwilling or unable to shell out the tuition for a public or private college education, these schools have a long history of catering to non-traditional students – adult learners, those seeking to re-enter the workforce after a break, part-time students with outside job and family obligations – with flexible class options and accelerated, practical curriculum. The federal government has capitalized on this aspect of the community college system by investing $2B in community college re-training programs for unemployed workers. Community colleges have also surged in popularity among those who already hold four-year degrees and are looking for practical skills to complement their liberal arts education and give them an advantage in the job market.

Cheap tuition augmented by grant money, practical, employable skills, a decent salary and a shorter time investment – what isn’t to love about a community college education? Firstly, graduates of highly specialized technical programs may find themselves locked into those occupations because of a lack of transferable soft skills. If you go to school to learn how to become a submerged arc welder, you will likely graduate as someone who can get a job doing SAW, but if you want to switch careers in 10 years, that decade of technical experience won’t necessarily help you land a position outside your narrow field. Secondly, despite CollegeMeasure’s findings, overall lifetime earnings are still tied to increased education levels. The more schooling you have, the more money you make, as a rule. But even then, 28% of associate’s degree holders buck the trend by outearning their bachelor’s degree counterparts over the life of their careers. File this under further proof that now more than ever, getting a job in this economy is about what you’ve studied vs. where and for how long.

My Ridgewater Story – Justin Rademacher

The following post is Justin Rademacher’s Ridgewater Story.  Justin is a student in the Marketing and Sales Management program and authored the post.

In 2008 I was working at a hardware store as an assistant department manager making a little over $20,000 a year. I had moved up the ranks fairly quickly and was on track of being given more responsibility. I knew that the company had plans for me to eventually take over as the department manager within a year or so.  Even though I was on the “right track”, something was missing. I felt that I could do more, that I had a lot more potential that I haven’t obtained yet. After much consideration, I came to the conclusion that furthering my education would deliver me more opportunities.

The fall semester of 2009 began and I was beginning my time at a university up north. I started doing my generals knowing that I wanted to receive a degree in business. In doing my generals, one thing kept sticking out to me. The class sizes were huge and I wasn’t really getting the individualized help that I really needed. I began to wonder if this was the right choice for me. I thought about it a while longer and decided to finish up my generals and then look for another school that would more suit my needs and would focus my desire to success.

Spring semester 2010, I began my time with Ridgewater College in Hutchinson, MN. I have to say that by far it is the smartest decision I have ever made in my life to this point. I met with the marketing and sales management advisor prior to transferring and based on what I wanted and my personality, I decided this was the field I wanted to pursue.

Once classes began, I could tell right away this was the place for me. I had the individualized attention I needed, was learning the field that I wanted to be in, and I was offered many more opportunities than my previous college. I was received a PELL grant which decreased the size of my college debt.

Immediately I began getting involved by joining a group called DECA where I was able to participate nationally in marketing competitions. And now, I am the president of our local DECA chapter, I am a part of the Ambassador program, and I volunteer in the marketing department where my classroom skills are being applied.

The roads in life often take wild turns every now and then. I am not quite sure where my road will turn next, but I have every confidence that Ridgewater has provided the tools and opportunities for me to change my life.

Excellent Employees Make an Excellent College!

Several Ridgewater staff and faculty have recently been recognized by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU) Board of Trustees for excelling in their job duties.

Two Faculty Honored as Outstanding Educators

Two members of Ridgewater’s faculty have been named by the Board of Trustees as Outstanding Educators for 2012. Dr. Allen Balay, chair of the Veterinary Technology department, and Shawn Mueske, Biology instructor, have both been bestowed with this honor.

Nominations for Outstanding Educator were made by students, faculty peers or staff, and were evaluated by a campus review committee before being submitted to the MnSCU Senior Vice Chancellor as Outstanding Educators by Ridgewater President Dr. Douglas Allen.  At the System level, a committee used detailed criteria in assessing Outstanding Educator portfolios and will make final recommendation of four Educator of the Year recipients, who are reviewed and approved by the Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees Educator of the Year Award for Excellence in Teaching program evaluates each nominee in the following areas:

  • Teaching strategies and materials
  • Content expertise and professional growth
  • Service to students, profession, institution, and system
  • Assessment of student learning and performance

Ridgewater Finance Team Receives Award

The Ridgewater College Finance team, led by Dan Holtz, Vice President of Finance and Operations and Cheryl Norlien, Director of Business Services, has been named as recipients of the 2011 Excellence in Financial Management Award in recognition of Ridgewater’s leadership and efforts in financial management.

This award is part of an awards program that was put in place in 1997 to recognize leadership and team effort for excellence in financial management and facilities management.  It also recognizes significant contributions and outstanding efforts of special employees at MnSCU colleges and universities.

Other members of the Finance team at Ridgewater include Teren Novotny, Karen Stulen, Shannon Mittag, Christine Gerding, Deb Wiprud, Audrey Harper, Jennifer Loeschen, and JoLynn Kosek.

Student Services Leaders Recognized

MnSCU leadership has also presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Ridgewater College and several key student services leaders for outstanding contributions to the system-wide Students First project, which has been instrumental in improving the student experience in the areas of admissions, financial aid, payment, and registration.

Recipients of this recognition include Kelli Kienitz, Registrar; Sally Kerfeld, Director of Admissions; Cheryl Norlien, Director of Business Services; and Jim Rice, Director of Financial Aid.

Congratulations to all of the recipients of these honors, and THANK YOU!  It’s because of your tremendous effort that our region is home to such a great college!

WWII Educational Tour: Final Days

Inconsistent Internet access slowed Mr. Nelson’s posts for a few days in the middle of the WWII Educational Tour, but we’re re-posting his last two posts from the trip.  It sounds like it was an unforgettable experience for all 28 participants! A big THANK YOU to Ridgewater History instructor Sam Nelson for taking time to post and allowing us to share it with all of you!
March 11, 2012
An Amazing Day


Owing to a hiccup in scheduling, we are in Caen one more night rather than taking the night ferry to Portsmouth.  That means we will take the ferry tomorrow morning but it also means I have Internet access tonight to provide a review of the day’s highlights.

We began the day at the Caen Memorial Museum, a fantastic interpretive overview of the war with special attention paid to its human cost.  Although the History Channel may seem to have covered every known World War II film, the museum had some astounding footage from German archives, French resistance film, and Russian material.  The combination of film, photographs, artifacts, and human stories was mounted in a compelling presentation.

The memorial’s closing film on the D-Day landing captured the artistry of the museum experience. It was a split screen film from both the German and Allied perspectives.  On one side of the screen were American and British forces preparing for the invasion (along with French resistance film) while on the other side were scenes from the German defense preparations.  The mounting intensity of the dual footage culminated with the landing after which the movie switched to a single film of the Germans strafing the landing beaches, thus combining the two sides into one.  Then, suddenly, the film switched to a present day overflying of the same beaches today…in peace.  Everyone was quite taken by the film technique.

We picked up our Normandy guide, Patricia, who let us through Pointe du Hoc, the American cemetery, and the port city of Arromanches.  Situated between the American landing beaches, Omaha and Utah, Pointe du Hoc

March 12, 2012
The Last Post

Owing to lack of Internet access, the last post was written a couple days ago though only posted yesterday.  Ah, the joys of the Internet. After a pleasant journey across the English Channel Saturday morning, our two days in London were packed with excitement.  Saturday night in London is an overload for the senses.  Picadilly Circus is indeed a circus–of people, smells, hustle and bustle.  We wandered the streets of London, feasted on fish and chips, and enjoyed the atmosphere of the world’s most international city (300 languages spoken here!).

Sunday began with an outstanding tour of the city.  Our tour guide, Nikki, was another excellent source of information and entertaining tidbits.  We saw the changing of the guard, a ceremonial ritual carried out with precision and reverence.  Our next stop was the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum.  The latter transported us back to the war years as we strolled through the actual bunker location where Churchill, et al. conducted the war.  The Churchill Museum provides a highly interactive biography, including artifacts (his cigar and satin sleepwear), high tech displays, vintage photos and recordings, and video of Churchill’s life.

Next stop, the Imperial War Museum, another great World War II experience.  Actual tanks, planes, rockets, artillery, and every other munition of war were on display.  The Holocaust exhibit provided an emotional coda to the trip.  Some of the travelers peeled off to visit the Tower of London, where they viewed the Crown Jewels, torture instruments, medieval weaponry and armour, and other pleasant reminders of the Dark Ages.

We concluded our journey with an Indian dinner (very typical in London) and celebration of our time together.  The group was fantastic to travel with and hopefully everyone will return with lifelong memories to share with you.




WWII Educational Tour: Day 1 – Munich

Here are some of the latest posts from Sam Nelson as he accopanies his group on Ridgewater’s WWII Educational Tour to Europe.

March 3, 2012


We are now in Paris after our overnight train excursion from Munich, an experience no one will ever forget!  To bring readers up-to-date, however, I’ll back up to yesterday (Sunday).  We began the day with a tour of Munich by bus with an expert local guide, Monika.  She highlighted the World War II related sites with special focus on the White Rose resistance movement led by the 21-year old student, Sophie Scholl.  It’s an amazing story of courage in the face of brutal repression by the Nazi regime, for which Scholl and her compatriots paid with their lives.  (A fine movie that tells the story is Sophie Scholl:  The Final Days.)

Our next stop was Neuschwanstein, the great castle of King Ludwig II after which the Disney castle is modeled.  The castle rose out of the misty day from its spectacular hilltop setting.  Everyone was impressed with its sheer size and the audacity of splendor that it emobodied, from running water to a phone system to the ornate woodwork of Ludwig’s bed for which a dozen plus woodcarvers were employed for over four years!

After returning from Neuschwanstein, our last stop in Germany was the famed beer hall, the Hofbrauhaus.  We were entertained by a band while enjoying authentic German sausage, kraut, etc. washed down by those of age with a liter stein of the German “king of beers!”

We’re off to the Louvre and Notre Dame then a night Seine River cruise and Eiffel Tower visit.  More tonight.

March 4, 2012

Guten Morgen!

Having difficulty uploading photos….  Will keep working on, but limited internet access until tomorrow evening may prevent an update until our next hotel–Paris tomorrow evening (night train tonight).  I’ll blog again as soon as I have access.

March 3, 2012

Day 1: Munich

This update brought to you by one tired traveler!  We’ve been up for 36 straight hours in order to orient our biological clocks to European time (7 hours ahead of Minnesota), but everyone has been real troopers .  After our brief hotel stop this morning, we proceeded into Munich with Martin and our expert coach driver, Werner.  We gathered on the Marienplatz in front of the Rathaus (city hall) with its impressive noon chimes and Glockenspiel, then everyone set off for lunch on their own.  Some sampled traditional German lunch at the open air market (sun came out with temps in the low 50s) while others found restaurants to soak up the Bavarian atmosphere.

Our World War II focus for the day was a visit to the Dachau concentration camp.  Everyone was affected by the experience in a personal and profound way, but all agreed that it is a sobering excursion that they will never forget.

We concluded the day with a delicious three-course meal at the Hacker-Pschorr Brauhaus.  Potato soup, pork, dumplings, and sauerkraut finished off with a sour berry dessert.  Those of age also sampled some of Munich’s most famous export.

I have pictures to upload, but I am bushed and so will tackle that task with fresh eyes in the morning.  I bid you guten abend!

Day 2 preview:  BMW museum, Munich city tour, Neuschwanstein (aka the Disney castle), and the Hofbrauhaus before boarding the night train for Paris.

Hampton Wins National Contest with “The Seesaw”

Drew Hampton

Ridgewater Theatre instructor Drew Hampton

A 10-minute play titled “The Seesaw” has earned its author, Drew Hampton, Ridgewater Theatre faculty, national recognition.  The play was named as one of 18 finalists last fall at The Source Festival in Washington D.C.

In 2009, Hampton wrote the “’The Seesaw” as a final project for a Playwriting II class.  2009 was also the first year the play was entered into national competition – making the semi-finalist (top 100) cut.

After a number of revisions “The Seesaw” was submitted for the Source Festival again this past October.  The Source Festival received over 650 10-minute play submissions, which were read by DC-area theatre-goers, actors, directors, and even playwrights of national fame, including Adam Rapp {Red Light Winter} and Moises Kaufman (The Laramie Project and Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde).  This committee narrowed down their choices to the top 18 plays, which included Hampton’s work.

As part of the prize package, “The Seesaw” will be professionally produced this summer in Washington D.C.  It will also be featured in Ridgewater College’s upcoming spring production May 2-5, 2012.

Not an Experience, a SciTechsperience!

SciTechsperience.  Admittedly, I had to say it out loud a few times to really get it to flow, or even figure out what it meant.  But in all actuality, it’s a very descriptive word combination – a science and technology experience.

More specifically, SciTechsperience is an exiting internship opportunity in which businesses will work with talented college students studying in any of a wide number of science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields.

The program is a win-win for both businesses and higher education students.  The small to mid-size businesses will benefit from access to a low-cost solution to finding qualified interns that they might not otherwise have access to.  It also enables employers to find future employees, increase productivity and revitalize an organization with fresh perspectives and specialized skill sets.

Students will benefit by having a unique opportunity to help businesses develop solutions to real-world business problems. Best of all, these are paid internships of up to $5,000, with the business receiving matching funds up to $2,500 for salary purposes.

There are some qualifications that students and businesses must meet to be eligible, including specific fields in which the students must be enrolled.  Check out the SciTechsperience flyer for further information.  Additional program information is also available at the SciTechsperience website.

Throwing Bales and Programming Computers: Life on the Farm in the 21st Century


Vendor at Ridgewater Career Fair

Traci Seifert with Land O' Lakes discusses career opportunities with a student at the 2012 Ridgewater Ag Career Fair and Technology Showcase.

What do you think of when you imagine a career as a farmer:  Scooping manure? Mending fences? Throwing bales?  Maybe there’s some of that, but as over 300 hig


h school and college students learned at Ridgewater College on Friday, careers in today’s agriculture industry are more technologically advanced and exciting than ever before.

Ridgewater’s 220 Agriculture program students were joined by over 125 high school students from over 13 Minnesota high schools at Ridgewater’s Willmar campus for an Agriculture Career Fair and Technology Showcase.  The event featured exhibits from around 35 industry employers from across the region, who put on seminars for students, talked with them about career opportunities, and even did some interviewing.

While the Ridgewater Ag department has hosted career fairs for their students in the past, this was the first time all the college ag students participated. It was also the first time that businesses had the opportunity to set up trade-show style exhibits, and the first time high school ag students were invited. 

Many businesses were able to talk to the students about the opportunities in today’s agriculture industry, including precision agriculture, seed genetics, advanced livestock feeding systems, and livestock nutrition just to name a few. 

So while your vision of a career in agriculture may include cleaning barns and riding the hay wagon, most of today’s agriculture employees are considering the impact of yield by switching to the latest hybrid seed, or programming the GPS field mapping software on their tractor.  Indeed, the way look at agriculture has changed, but the future of the industry couldn’t be more exciting!

Interested in knowing more about careers in agriculture?  Simply call us at Ridgewater College and we’ll schedule a visit to campus!

Critical Care Paramedic Program at Ridgewater Aims to Provide Advanced Training to Region’s Paramedics

You’ve heard of the “golden years”, but are you familiar with the “golden hour”?  In traumatic and medical emergencies, the “golden hour” is a window of time in which delivery of proper medical care can make a significant difference in whether a patient lives or dies. In rural areas such as central and west central Minnesota, where response and transport times in emergency situations may be longer than in heavily populated areas, well-trained emergency medical service personnel become a critical component in making the most of the “golden hour”.

Thanks to a ten thousand dollar grant from the United Way of Kandiyohi County, Ridgewater College is launching a new Critical Care Paramedic (CCP) program.  Building upon a strong history of training Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics in central Minnesota, Ridgewater’s CCP program provide access for practicing paramedics and emergency room personnel to a fully-accredited critical care paramedic training program, enabling them to achieve a nationally-recognized certification as a Critical Care Paramedic.

Paramedics and other medical personnel who choose to pursue certification as a Critical Care Paramedic will build upon their current training and skill levels.  The CCP program will emphasize an advanced and in-depth understanding of illness and injuries of the pediatric, adult, and geriatric patient.  Specifically, a CCP:

  • Will have a greater ability for more concise differential diagnosis
  • Can perform rapid sequence induction (sedate and paralyze a patient for placement of a breathing tube)
  • Can perform retrograde intubation (insert a breathing tube when the patient has had extensive facial trauma)
  • Can perform a surgical cricothyrotomy (surgical airway)
  • Will have the ability to set up operating parameters for mechanical ventilation
  • Can perform sutures
  • Can insert a central IV line in the jugular or subclavian vein for massive trauma or cardiac patient with collapsed veins
  • Can hang and start blood product for transfusion
  • Can interpret 12-lead electrocardiography (ECG) in a cardiac emergency
  • Can assess and manage implanted cardiac defibrillators, pacemakers, and intra-aortic balloon pumps

In addition, a CCP is trained to recognize and manage the special needs of pediatric and geriatric patients, including shock, pain, and breathing, which can be harder to identify and diagnose in these populations.

The United Way grant will enable the college to purchase the program curriculum from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, which is the only nationally-recognized and certified program in the nation.  Ridgewater will provide the classroom portion of the training, and the clinical portion of the training will be delivered at Hennepin County Medical Center, expanding on the college’s current partnership with them in delivering the standard Acute Care Paramedic program. The grant will also pay for the travel expenses for CCP examiners to come from the University of Maryland to oversee the testing portion of the training.

More than a dozen current paramedics will participate in the initial cohort, including professionals from the Willmar Ambulance Service and several other local ambulance services.  In addition, Ridgewater has a core instructor that will proctor the program and two other instructors will participate to earn their CCP instructor certification.

This will be the only program in Minnesota through which paramedics can earn nationally-recognized certification as a Critical Care Paramedic. The closest program currently is in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  By placing student resources online and incorporating use of the college’s mobile simulation training vehicle, SimLab L1, Ridgewater’s CCP program will be a viable option for paramedics employed virtually anywhere in the state and region.

Initially, the program will cost students $1,000, and is delivered through Ridgewater’s Customized Training and Continuing Education department as an hour-based program.  As the program grows and develops, the college will examine the possibility of advancing the program to a credit-based certificate program.

All emergency patients will benefit by having a greater number of CCPs in the region, but the most critically ill and injured will see the greatest benefits from this advanced training.  The most critical patients, after assessment and stabilization at the nearest hospital, are often transferred to a tertiary care facility in St. Cloud or the Twin Cities.  This is accomplished by:

  1. Flying the patient in a CCP-staffed helicopter. 
  2. Transporting the patient by local ambulanced staffed by a CCP. 

Ultimately, the CCP program will enable the already well-trained ambulance services of the region to save even more lives, while reducing the costs to the patient and insurance companies, and keeping the funds in local economies.

Rice Health Foundation and Ridgewater College Team Up to Help Save Lives

Code Blue Team Leadership TrainingYou feel pain in your left arm, the sensation of pressure on your chest, and shortness of breath.  You are having a heart attack.  You are “code blue” to the emergency medical personnel who are on their way to treat you – to save your life.

Heart attacks are the number one cause of premature death in America, and 44.2 percent of Kandiyohi County residents are age 45 and older – an age where risk of heart attacks begins to rise significantly.  We are indeed blessed to have well trained and dedicated emergency medical personnel in our region.

Now, in partnership with Ridgewater College, 200 healthcare professionals in Kandiyohi County are taking their training in cardiac care to the next level.

Thanks to $24,000 grant from the Rice Health Foundation, Ridgewater is delivering its Code Blue Team Leadership training to the Rice Hospital system in Kandiyohi County. Ridgewater Customized Training and Continuing Education has been delivering the CBTL training to healthcare personnel for three years, but this is a first-of-its-kind pilot project that will document the results of a system-wide cardiac care training initiative.

Participating in the training will be Rice Hospital Emergency staff, Atwater Fire and Ambulance, New London Ambulance, Raymond Ambulance, Sunburg Ambulance, Willmar Ambulance, Bethesda Pleasantview, and Rice Care Center.

Code Blue Team Leadership uses a high fidelity simulation manikin to create a life-like cardiac event scenario, allowing health care providers the opportunity to practice, identify, record and evaluate each process, procedure, obstacle, and challenge that they may encounter while treating a cardiac event patient.

“It’s facilitated self-discovery,” notes Ron Flannigan, Ridgewater Code Blue Team Leadership instructor. “We help design a functional work space for each person on the team by eliminating physical and procedural obstacles, thereby helping each person on the team achieve ‘perfection’ per benchmarks established by the American Heart Association.”

The project will deliver thirty-eight 2-hour training sessions, beginning with a mock 911 call, and will involve a complete “full through” cardiac patient session from the patient’s residence to the Basic Life Support ambulance, to the Advanced Life Support ambulance, to the hospital, and finally to the rehab center.  Each step and exchange will be observed, critiqued, and repeated with procedural and process adjustments implemented for each department and individual.  The facilitated adjustments that improve efficiency and effectiveness will be replicated in subsequent sessions.

What is the significance of all this?  Initial results of CBTL training have shown significant improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of cardiac life support providers measured against benchmarks established by the AHA.  In fact, the stated goals of the project include potentially saving lives and impacting cardiac survival outcomes in our area by 20%, and greatly improving the quality of life for those surviving cardiac episodes. The bottom line – lives are being saved.