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Ridgewater to close small business management program

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WILLMAR -- Ridgewater College will close its small business management program next year.

The college announced the cut on Friday. The cutback is the result of projected state budget cuts to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system over the next two years, according to a news release from Ridgewater.

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"We need to plan now for decisions that will lead to long term financial viability for the organization," said Ridgewater President Douglas Allen in the news release. "We simply cannot sustain all of the programs we currently offer."

Allen said other cuts will be made as the college balances budget reductions with the need to maintain service to students.

The small business management program will continue to serve students through the 2009-2010 school year. Two full-time faculty members will be laid off at the end of the year.

The program assists individuals in business or in the start-up phase of a business in improved management and operation of their business. The program has a one-on-one instructor to student approach to help improve the skills of business owners.

Allen said the program is not being closed because of a lack of interest or success. The cost of the program was a factor, and similar assistance is available from other public sources.

The Small Business Development Centers in the state and business specialists in the Department of Employment and Economic Development currently provide many of the same services to small businesses at no charge.

The college recently created a business development center on college property in Hutchinson's industrial park. The facility will house customized training staff and programs along with the Hutchinson small business management faculty for the remainder of the program.

The college has signed an agreement to rent space to Central Minnesota Jobs and Training and staff from DEED.

According to Dean of Instruction Kathy Brock, "Our vision is to create a one stop shop where individuals and businesses can come for a wide variety of services designed to help them succeed."

She said she hopes Ridgewater can continue to serve small business owners through the college's customized training options and through partnership with other state programs.

Six students earned diplomas in the program last year, and 39 students have graduated from the program over the past five years.

"Obviously this is an extremely difficult decision and one we are not happy to have to make; however, recent and projected cuts to our budget leave us few choices," Allen said.

-- Linda Vanderwerf

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