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Bachelor's degree in Red Wing?

Right now, Red Wing residents wanting to earn or finish a bachelor’s degree have two options: take online classes or commute as much as an hour to attend classes.

 But Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota are looking to change that by bringing a bachelor’s degree completion program to Red Wing.

 “Our mission is to bring education to people who need those opportunities and location is a barrier,” said Paul Christensen, assistant dean  of the Graduate School of Business & Technology at SMU.

The partnership would essentially bring SMU instructors, classes and programs to the Southeast Technical Red Wing Campus. Just like students who attend SMU in Minneapolis, students enrolled in the Red Wing program would earn an SMU degree. They would pay the same tuition rates as well, Christensen said.

Southeast Technical would simply provide the space.

“Our role in this is to really become that gateway to post-secondary education in the Red Wing area,” said Ron Sellnau, vice president for academic affairs at Southeast Tech.

Students who completed associate degrees at Southeast Tech — as well as students who completed or just started coursework in other accredited programs — could transfer their credits to the SMU program.

Christensen added that SMU has a “generous” transfer credit policy as well as credit for prior life and work experience.

The whole idea for the partnership came out of an initiative from Red Wing 2020, Christensen said.

“I was invited … to look at the possibility of bringing more educational opportunities to Red Wing,” he said. “I was happy to oblige.”

That was last October. Now, the Southeast Tech and SMU are looking at starting the Red Wing programs as early as January.

An open house was held at Southeast Tech in late July to help gauge interest in the bachelor’s degree completion program and help determine which programs should be offered.

Christensen said at least 25 people attended.

“So far, what we’ve seen is promising,” he said.

“We’re real pleased with the turnout,” Sellnau echoed.

Christensen said people were interested in the business, science and police science degrees. Still, it hasn’t yet been determined exactly which programs might be offered in Red Wing.

The whole point, Christensen added, is to give Red Wing residents more opportunities.

“It takes additional effort to start college programs at new locations but the effort is worth it if doing so benefits the community," Christensen said.

But there was one thing Christensen was clear about: the SMU bachelor’s degree completion programs would in no way replace Southeast Tech’s programming. It would just give people wanting more education the opportunity to obtain it locally.

"Because our bachelor’s completion programs are designed to do just that — help people complete a bachelors degree — we depend on community and technical colleges to provide the first two years of education. This is why our partnership with Southeast Technical College is important," he said. "For individuals who decide that pursuing a bachelor’s degree is beneficial, my hope is that we'll be able to offer some of these programs in the Red Wing community."

Moving forward, SMU will continue to promote the program to Southeast Tech students and the Red Wing Community. Sellnau said a couple more open houses will be held at Southeast Tech in the coming months. Anyone interested in the program can contact SMU at 866-437-2788.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.