Promises kept that will help families and students / Joe Nathan’s Column

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Sometimes people do keep their promises. Fortunately, Larry Pogemiller, Sandy Connolly and their colleagues at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education have kept promises they made a year ago. They agreed to review and update a key, free publication that they distribute throughout Minnesota. This document helps families and students understand, apply for and afford one-, two- and four-year options after high school.

Recently several people have written to me, encouraging more attention to one- and two-year vocational programs.

For example, Mark Nupen, of Anoka, explained: “I am concerned that the ‘push to get HS grads to go on to college,’ but the trades schools training seems to be lost in the language. … The push to college is very important, but I think many poor or less educated parents and their children have very little knowledge of the ‘trades’ school choices and their opportunities. Maybe … referring to ‘college’ bound also means the trades schools, but the message therefore is not very clear to many students nor parents.”

Nupen wrote that he had not grown up knowing much about vocational and technical training, but he married a St. Paul woman whose brothers were involved in the St. Paul Painters Union. Her brother Daniel Fleischhacker was a local past president. “I realized what a skilled tradesman is all about and also about the potential benefit of a very well run union during Daniel’s leadership,” Nupen wrote.

Nupen is right to encourage families – all families – to consider one- and two-year programs, as well as those found in four-year colleges and universities. People can prepare for satisfying, well-paid jobs and careers at two-year colleges. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education, or MOHE, has done a fine job of describing different options for education after high school.

Last year the Center for School Change, where I work, pointed out that some information about various forms of free high school and college credit courses was not accurate in the 2014 edition of “Choosing a College.” Pogemiller, commissioner of the MOHE, and Connolly, MOHE director of communications, agreed. They promised to update the information for this year’s edition.

They kept their promise. MOHE’s free, revised report, “Choosing a College” is a very valuable resource. This report includes a number of features. For example,

–An “interest profile” that help students decide on potential majors and careers.

–Information about earning college credits in high school.

–Advice for students with disabilities.

–Profiles of more than 80 Minnesota two- and four-year, public, private, nonprofit and for-profit colleges and universities, with information on the percentage of students who return after their first year, percentage who graduate, costs, admission policies, location, number of students, and percentage of students receiving some form of financial aid.

MOHE reports are free, both online and in hard copies. Schools and organizations can order them to share with students and families. Individuals also can order a free copy. Before ordering, I’d encourage people to follow Connolly’s advice and “check them out online, where the PDF can be viewed and printed.”

The MOHE also has free booklets on “Financial Aid Basics,” “FAFSA & MN Dream Act,” “Grants & Scholarships” and “Student Loans.” Here is the link if you want to see, read and, if desired, order hard copies of these booklets:

Fortunately, Connolly and her colleagues are not satisfied. Connolly wrote to me: “We want these publications to be as helpful as possible in addressing the needs of students and parents, so any feedback is welcome and appreciated.” That’s a great attitude – not always found in government or private industry. I encourage readers to review the booklets and give her feedback by email to

Fortunately, Connolly and Pogemiller are people who keep promises.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome, please comment below.