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Campus crunch at M State-Moorhead

Nursing student Tanya Rysavy shops for books Friday in the bookstore of Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead. Classes start Monday. (Michael Vosburg/The Forum)

MOORHEAD -- Students will arrive Monday at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead loaded with questions about their futures.

One question looms large for school officials: where to put everybody?

M State has seen enrollment growth for several years, with last fall's headcount of about 3,100 students surpassing Concordia College's enrollment for the first time.

Finding space for to accommodate those students is challenging, said Provost Jerry Migler.

"We are stretched, there is no question," he said.

This fall, M State will get some relief by gaining space in the Higher Education Center, the former Thomas Edison Elementary at 1110 4th St. S. in Moorhead.

The center was jointly used by M State and Minnesota State University Moorhead, but the lease expired in June and MSUM no longer needs the space.

M State has taken over the lease and gained about five more classrooms.

A construction trades lab under construction should be completed in December. It will house refrigeration and air-conditioning programs and allow the campus to add new programs.

For the long term, M State officials hope to get $5.4 million in bonding money from the Minnesota Legislature next year to construct a three-story library and classroom building.

Migler is optimistic about receiving the funding because it's ranked among the top 10 priorities for the Minnesota Colleges and Universities system.

In the meantime, faculty and staff are creative with scheduling to accommodate more students.

That includes offering more night classes and courses in an accelerated format called ExpressEd that involves a combination of online and classroom work.

"We're trying to provide avenues for learners that can't do the traditional day," Migler said.

The Moorhead campus does not expect to see significant enrollment growth this fall, in part because the college suspended its dental assistant program for one year while it is being revamped.

On Friday, the campus was busy with two orientation sessions for new students.

"We always see a demand and request for students to enroll literally up to the last minute and beyond," said Shawn Anderson, dean of student services.

As of late Friday, 3,104 students were enrolled. Students will continue to register this week.

First-year students Kevin Stautz and Adam Kvilvang, both of Valley City, N.D., were on campus Friday finding their classrooms and getting their laptops ready to go.

The economy played a major role in their decision to attend MSCTC and what programs they chose. Stautz is enrolled in the automotive program and Kvilvang is in refrigeration and air conditioning.

Both programs have high job placement rates, and they'll be in the work force two years sooner than their peers attending four-year schools, Kvilvang said.

In addition to the technical programs, MSCTC is becoming more recognized for its liberal arts courses for students who want to get an associate's degree and transfer to a four-year school, Anderson said.

This fall, students are watching their budgets closely, with some students planning their schedules according to how much the books cost, Anderson said.

"People are very budget conscious, and they're watching every penny," Anderson said.

Back to school

Minnesota State University Moorhead also begins classes Monday. North Dakota State University's first full day of classes is Tuesday. Concordia College begins classes on Sept. 3.