Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

  1. What does Cycles for Success seek to achieve?
    Cycles for Success will inspire students at Austin and Pacelli High Schools to graduate and then pursue their college education locally and thus provide employers with a skilled workforce in high-wage, high-demand occupations. An overarching assumption of this proposal is that educating young people is a prudent investment in the workforce, economic, and community development of the Austin area.
  2. How will this program improve high-school graduation and higher education participation rates?
    College and high school officials are collaborating to implement academic, advising, career planning, and other strategies to help middle and high school students prepare earlier for a postsecondary education. The goal is for traditionally underrepresented students–with financial barriers to overcome–to enroll at Riverland, complete their education, and remain in the community as skilled members of the workforce or continue their education by transferring to an upper division college or university. Only students who graduate after attending four years at either Austin High School or Pacelli High School are eligible to use the scholarships funded through Cycles for Success for postsecondary education at Riverland Community College. Eligible candidates are those students who attend Riverland in the fall semester after graduating from high school.
  3. What are the benefits to the community if we improve student graduation and participation rates?
    One major benefit to the Austin-area community is a larger, more diverse pool of skilled workers. Economic theory predicts that an individual’s education not only boosts his or her own productivity but also that of others. The presence of more educated workers leads to a "knowledge spillover," making other workers more productive within the local economy. Positive spillovers from education have been found in areas other than labor markets, too. Currie and Moretti's 2003 study showed that "higher maternal education improves infant health, reduces poverty, increases use of prenatal care, and reduces smoking, suggesting that these are important pathways for the ultimate effect on health." Lochner and Moretti’s 2004 study found a significant decrease in the probability of criminal behavior and incarceration for people with more education. All of these benefits promise a higher quality of life for members of the community.
  4. Who are traditionally underrepresented students"?
    Traditionally underrepresented students" refers to students who typically do not go to college and have one or more of the following characteristics:
    1. First generation, meaning the student’s parents did not attend college
    2. Low-income family based on federal guidelines
    3. Middle fifty-percent of their graduating class
    4. Member of an ethnic or racial minority (African Americans/ Black, American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, and multiracial)
    In specific instances, other groups of students may be considered underrepresented. For example, in a traditionally female discipline like nursing, males may be considered underrepresented."
  5. How will Cycles for Success help traditionally underrepresented students?
    Cycles for Success will
    1. Remove financial barriers to postsecondary enrollment
    2. Provide enhanced support services to improve academic success at high school and college levels
    3. Extend outreach to Austin and Pacelli High School students to raise expectations and preparation
    4. Use project results to inform long-term public policy decisions regarding college accessibility, student success, and workforce development
  6. Why does this program focus on traditionally underrepresented students?
    Traditionally underrepresented students are the future workforce. According to Annie Levenson-Falk, policy coordinator for the Citizens League, while Minnesota’s need for skilled workers is increasing, the number of Minnesotans prepared to fill those jobs is decreasing:
    1. Between 2002 and 2010, the number of jobs requiring some higher education and providing a living wage increased 21 percent.
    2. The number of college graduates retiring from the workforce will increase as members of the baby boom generation begin to retire; by 2020, Minnesota will have more retirees than school children for the first time in history.
    3. During the same period, the number of high school graduates will decline by 10.3 percent, and the number of college graduates will decline by 12 percent.
    Rural Minnesota faces the daunting challenge of a 20-percent decline in overall high school students between 2005 and 2015 due to declining populations. If current trends continue, Minnesota will soon have too few qualified workers to fill the jobs available. In order to meet coming workforce demands, a higher percentage of high school graduates need to complete higher education and be prepared to participate in the workforce.
    Cycles for Success addresses these critical workforce issues locally in partnership with Austin K-12 systems in a comprehensive, integrated manner.
  7. How much will this project cost?
    The Hormel Foundation is funding Cycles forSuccess at $200,000 annually for five years. Riverland Community College and the Riverland Community College Foundation are providing scholarships and in-kind services totaling more than $60,000 annually via their staff members responsible for processing, awarding, and tracking student scholarships. In addition, Riverland, Austin Public Schools, and Pacelli Catholic Schools officials are providing in-kind staff services and other resources to support success strategies for students.
  8. How will the money be used?
    Cycles for Success focuses on graduating high school students who typically could not pursue postsecondary education because of financial barriers. The Hormel Foundation funds will flow to the Austin Public Schools as the fiscal agent. The Austin Public Schools will allocate the funds to the Riverland Community College Foundation, which will award student scholarships to eligible students.
  9. How many students will $200,000 serve annually?
    The number of students served by this project will vary. Many factors (e.g., eligibility for state and federal financial aid, cost of the program of study, need for developmental education, inflationary factors, etc.) affect the number of students served through this project. Assuming that scholarship recipients depend only on Cycles for Success scholarships, a minimum of 20 full-time-equivalent students will be served the first year. In years two through five, a minimum of 40 students will be served annually with 20 second-year students completing their study in year six. Given the likelihood that students will qualify for additionalstate and federal financial aid, the number of students served by Cycles for Success will be larger than these conservative projections.
  10. How will eligibility for financial aid affect the number of students served by this project?
    Applicants will be required to apply for state and federal financial aid first; those who are eligible will receive state and federal financial aid before Hormel Foundation funds are allocated. In cases where students receive sufficient federal and state financial grant aid to pay for all college costs, they will not receive Hormel Foundation scholarship funds. In addition, students eligible for Riverland Foundation and other scholarships will have those applied to their cost of attendance before any allocation from the Hormel Foundation will be made.
  11. How will the student’s choice of a program of study affect the number of students served by this project?
    The number of students served varies with the cost of the respective program of study. Career-technical programs like nursing, radiography, auto service technology, and diesel technology require expensive tools in contrast to transfer programs in the liberal arts and sciences. Projected costs for Cycles for Success estimated an average of approximately $6,500 annually (tuition, fees, books, etc.) for a student who does not qualify for other forms of financial aid. Since students are from the local community, they may continue to live at home and minimize college-housing costs.
  12. How does developmental education affect the number of students served by this project?
    Some traditionally underrepresented students (e.g., first-generation, low-income, and/or minority learners) graduate from high school but not be entirely ready for college-level courses. These at-risk students may need credit-based pre-college level courses, which could add to the cost of attendance. Federal financial aid will pay for college-prep (developmental) coursework for eligible students. These courses are not expected to add significantly to the cost of Cycles for Success because characteristics of at-risk students generally correlate highly with eligibility for state and federal financial aid.
  13. Since resources are limited, how will the program be promoted and students be selected for scholarships?
    College and Austin-area school officials will work together to promote the program strategically through a combination of academic advising and career counseling strategies. College and school counselors and school success coaches will work with high school students individually and in groups to promote the scholarship opportunities. College admissions officials will promote the program through materials designed for Austin and Pacelli High School students.
    The scholarship selection and award process will be determined by college officials in cooperation with Austin-area school officials. School and college officials will establish criteria for awarding Cycles for Success scholarships. College and foundation officials are experienced at administering student scholarship application processes. The key principle will be to ensure that the criteria are applied fairly and consistently and remain focused on the targeted population of traditionally underrepresented students.
  14. What other resources are being directed to this project?
    In addition to the resources described in question #7 above, college officials will seek matching funds from state and federal sources, private donors, and corporate partners to expand the number of students served. For example, Riverland has already applied for a federal TRIO grant that, if funded, will provide approximately $200,000 annually for each of five years to ensure intensive support services for Cycles for Success and similar students at Riverland.
  15. What are the chances for the project's success?
    Chances for achieving the program’s intended outcomes are excellent. The award-winning pilot program, Be Your Best Summer College Prep Academy, funded by the Hormel Foundation via APEX Austin, has successfully served traditionally underrepresented students with the same characteristics as the target students in Cycles for Success. In addition to best practices taken from the Be Your Best program, school district and college officials are applying new strategies for improving K-12 student academic success, college readiness, retention, and graduation. Austin Public School District has been selected as a pilot site for the Ramp-Up to Readiness program that helps junior and senior high school students master the knowledge, skills, and habits for success in higher education. They will begin implementing a pilot phase of the Ramp-Up program in the 2010-11 academic year for students in the sixth grade with the goal of expanding the curriculum to grades 6-12 in future years. Cycles for Success will dovetail with the systematic guidance, monitoring, and interventions of Ramp-Up to Readiness to further support success at the postsecondary level.
  16. What strategies will Riverland employ to improve student success?
    Access to postsecondary education alone–without subsequent academic success (completion)–is unacceptable because the college experience becomes nothing more than a revolving door in which students enter and exit without achieving their educational goals. Riverland officials understand that for students to succeed in college, performance is best when expectations are high and when students receive support that helps them achieve at high levels. Lower the standards, and quality suffers. Eliminate the support, and students flounder. Riverland’s strategy is to employ the principles of high expectations and high support purposefully to build a student-centered culture in which every aspect of college life reflects these desired attributes and outcomes.

    Riverland officials will use national, state, and peer-cohort benchmark data to determine how to improve student engagement. College officials anticipate the use of cohort and learning community style strategies and interactive media–e.g., individual face-to-face exchanges, classroom experiences, online services, and social media–to create meaningful, lasting connections that are cognizant of and relevant to students’ needs. Operating in a culture of evidence, Riverland officials will use quantitative and qualitative data to strengthen its application of the following six principles designed for student success:
    1. Personal Connections
    2. High Expectations and Aspirations with a Focus on Completion
    3. A Plan and a Pathway to Success
    4. An Effective Track to College Readiness
    5. Engaged Learning
    6. An Integrated Network of Financial, Social, and Academic Support
    Cycles for Success funding ensures that Riverland will have the needed resources to partner with officials at Austin and Pacelli High Schools and reach into the earlier grades to inform and encourage learners to aspire to a postsecondary education no matter their personal and family circumstances. Cycles for Success is a partnership for excellence in secondary and postsecondary education that applies the six principles at all levels and will serve our learners, employers, and community better.