Trustee Bike Ride for Scholarships Comes to DCTC Sept. 23

Armed with donation pledge cards, one change of clothes and a strong message about the need to change Minnesota’s financial aid program, Robert O. Erickson will finish off his bicycle tour to all 53 of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities on Thursday, Sept. 23. One of his final stops will be at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount.

Arriving on campus at 11 a.m., Erickson will be greeted by an enthusiastic throng of DCTC students, faculty and staff serving up lunch and dollars to help students in need of financial aid across Minnesota. More than 80 percent of DCTC students receive some kind of financial assistance.

This is Erickson’s third year of pedaling more than 2,200 miles over 30 days to raise money and build public support for making more financial aid available to Minnesota’s part-time college students, many of whom balance college with family and full-time work.

“The challenges for students are growing,” Erickson said. “Tuition continues to go up. Many, many people are being denied a chance to better themselves.”

Over the past two years, Erickson raised $206,848.82 in donations for student scholarships. As a former board member and chair of the finance and facilities committee of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System’s Board of Trustees, Erickson recognizes the financial hardships faced by many part-time students. 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, 58, currently serves on the board of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Foundation. He 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 is soliciting donations for his scholarship challenge. Contributions may be designated to individual colleges and universities or to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Foundation, where they will be applied entirely to student scholarships.

“Many students in the two-year community and technical colleges are non-traditional students with families and full-time jobs,” said Justin Pahl, president of the Minnesota State College Student Association. “We appreciate his efforts to bring about change and create opportunities for those students to get the education they want to better their lives.”

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System comprises seven state universities and 25 community and technical colleges serving the higher education needs of Minnesota. The system serves about 240,000 students per year in credit-based courses and 45 percent of all students are enrolled part-time. The average age of part-time students is 30.

“You have to constantly keep the message in front of people. You have to keep going to make a difference. The only way to make it happen is to just keep banging away,” Erickson said.