Minnesota has the second-highest education level in the U.S. as measured by the scholarship research website Scholaroo.com.
A representative from Scholaroo told VOA Learning English that the state has a high percentage of residents with advanced degrees. It is ranked above Connecticut and just behind Massachusetts overall.
The state is number one in the percentage of residents with doctoral degrees, Schoolaroo says. The top study programs there are in education, medicine and law.
VOA Learning English talked with students and college supporters to learn why they think Minnesota is a good place for higher education.
Next gen med
Akhil Kollengode is an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota-Rochester. He is in a new program that offers an undergraduate degree in two and a half years compared to the traditional four.
His study program is in health sciences. It is called NXT GEN MED, which deals with medical administration. He hopes to move from studying to working at the nearby Mayo Clinic, a well-known hospital based in Rochester.
“It is a big reason why I chose to stay in Minnesota,” he said.
Kollengode is in his second year of college. He said he and his classmates saw how the COVID-19 pandemic took away some of the in-person college experience from their older friends. He said, “We felt a little more motivation because we understood how much it could be taken for granted.”
He also saw the example of his parents working in the medical field and wanted to follow their path.
Kollengode said many young people in Minnesota think they can only reach their goals by moving away.
“These younger students are always told ‘oh everything is so good when you leave home and when you can finally live on your own. But you can do all of those things when you're still in your hometown. Saving money, getting the same education and sometimes maybe better education if you’re in your hometown.”
College in three
Lori Carrell is the chancellor, a top official, at the University of Minnesota-Rochester. She said a number of universities in the U.S. are part of a new program testing “college in three.” It aims to get students a degree in three, not four years.
She said many students in the U.S. are questioning the value of college because of the cost. They also are concerned about finding a good job when they finish.
Schools like hers are working to help students complete their degrees with a good job and not a lot of debt. Students stay in school all year and work at the Mayo Clinic, which is close by, Carrell explained.
She said, “We need people to come to Minnesota:”
“There are a lot of needs for people with advanced degrees in Minnesota, making this three-year undergrad option even more attractive.”
Once people finish their undergraduate degree, she said, they can move on to advanced degrees and find a good job in Minnesota.
Out of State
Students from other states like Minnesota, too.
Siya Sakhardande came from Texas to study psychology at the University of Minnesota’s main campus, in Minneapolis and St. Paul, known as the “twin cities.”
She said she considered schools in California, Michigan and the rest of the U.S. But the combination of a strong educational program and a good financial aid offer brought her to Minnesota.
She said she and her classmates consider undergraduate degrees just the start.
“I plan to go to law school. I have friends who want to go to medical school at the university. I have friends who want to get their master’s and their graduate degrees at the university. The university definitely encourages that and like uses whatever resources they can to like, help us plan a future and a career beyond just going to school there.”
But she also said the school wants students who come from families that might not be considering college.
Sakhardande noted the university’s scholarship for Native American students, called the Native American Promise Tuition Program. It started last year. The university says it pays for 100 percent of school fees for students from recognized Native American tribes in Minnesota.
In addition, Sakhardande helped with a recent campaign by a state lawmaker to push the state to pay low-income students’ costs for attending a Minnesota public college. She said the North Star Promise scholarship program will make sure all students in Minnesota think about college.
Community college ‘saved me’
The state senator who worked on the project was Omar Fateh, whose district is in Minneapolis. He said he is not surprised Minnesota ranks high in education.
“Minnesotans have long seen the value of higher education as a path to economic mobility,” he said.
Fateh said it is important to make higher education possible for all students in the state. He said the scholarship he is supporting can be used at both two-year and four-year colleges.
Fateh’s parents were immigrants from Somalia. His father came to the U.S. to study at Montana State University. He grew up in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia. But he was not a good student in high school. He said he was saved by a school program.
“... a program called the Pathways Program, which recruited students that were deemed to be ‘at risk youth’ into Northern Virginia Community College. That's why I'm a big supporter of community colleges because I believe it really it really helped me and saved me.”
Carrell said Minnesota clearly values higher education: “There’s a great appreciation for advanced degrees and higher education in the state of Minnesota.” She added that education leaders there feel a responsibility to give students a good ROI, or return on investment, for their time in school.
Sakhardande thinks students from inside and outside of the U.S. should consider Minnesota schools.
“It's just a little bit less recognized than states like California and the Ivy Leagues. But I think once you get to Minnesota, you understand that there are great things to do here.”
I’m Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English.
Words in This Story
scholarship –n. an amount of money given to a student to reduce the cost of their education to them
resident –n. a person who lives in a particular place
advanced degree –n. a degree higher than a bachelor’s degree
doctoral –adj. related to the highest degree given by a university
take for granted –v. to fail to recognize the value of something
deem –v. to think of something in a certain way
district –n. an area established by a government for a certain purpose
mobility –n. the quality of being able to move around or go to a different level
We want to hear from you. After reading this story, would you consider schools in Minnesota?