he LTV Mine closed its doors in February, leaving more than 1,400 hundred workers unemployed in an area where the closest community college is 30 minutes away. It takes twice that long to get to the University of Minnesota at Duluth, the nearest four-year
he LTV Mine closed its doors in February, leaving more than 1,400 hundred workers unemployed in an area where the closest community college is 30 minutes away. It takes twice that long to get to the University of Minnesota at Duluth, the nearest four-year university.
"The day I walked out of there, I made up my mind I was going to get my education," said Jodi Burgraff, a furnace operator at the LTV Mine, which was the largest employer in the region. "I don’t miss my job, but I miss my paycheck."
Although there is no college or university near her, Burgraff, who lives in Aurora, Minnesota, has taken advantage of a $10,000 grant from Minneapolis-based Capella University — an online university offering certificates and degree programs in business, education, human services, psychology and technology.
She is one of a handful of recently unemployed mineworkers in northeastern Minnesota’s rural Iron Range region who are tapping into online learning as a way to stay in their communities and earn college degrees.
Burgraff, who said she once needed help turning on her home computer, is now working toward a bachelor’s degree in information technology. She is simultaneously taking courses at both Mesabi Range Community and Technical College and Capella University.
"If I can get done that much quicker, I’ll be that much more ahead looking for jobs," she said.
While laid-off mineworkers are often forced to uproot their families to find work and educational opportunities, Burgraff hopes that distance training will enable her to stay in Aurora.
"I’d like to some day have my own business. I want to be my own boss," she said. "With the Internet, I should be able to do this from home. We’re in a town of less than 1,000 people."
Leaving town is not an easy option for many that grew up in the area. Chad Scott worked as a security guard at the LTV Mine and was able to buy a house in Hoyt Lakes, Minn. on his salary. He said his fiancé does not want to leave the area either, so distance learning allows him to work in town and study at home in the evenings.
Scott said the job market for mental health counseling, for which he is pursing a master’s degree, is "fair to good" in the area, so he would like to stay.
"It is a beautiful area," he said. "But I might have to commute to Duluth."
Scott owns a computer and has Internet access at home, which makes pursuing an online degree easier. But even if he did not, he said, he would be able to complete his online degree. The Mesabi Range Community and Technical College allows Capella students to use its computer labs to take distance learning courses. The local career development center also offers computer access.
"I don’t have to be online all the time," Scott said. "I use it as a luxury to send my work in as an attachment or to e-mail my teachers."
Both Scott and Burgraff said they have been surprised at how quickly their professors have responded to their e-mail questions.
"I think my teacher must be on the computer all the time," Burgraff said. "He gets back to you within a couple of hours."
Capella University committed $500,000 to displaced mine workers and their families, and formed a partnership with Mesabi Range Community and Technical College that gives students access to computer labs and financial aid counseling. Capella will also accept course credits earned at the community college and apply them toward its information technology bachelor’s degree program.
"We are very interested in building cooperative relationships with community colleges," said Steven Shank, CEO of Capella Education Company. "They have graduates who want to continue to live and work in the community, but they want to get their four-year degree."Pubblicato su: