WILLMAR — Her financial aid had come through, and it was time for Leticia Perez to look for her books.
Perez, 35, of Morton, was in the Ridgewater College Willmar bookstore Friday morning looking for books for four classes — introduction to the study of chemical dependency, the human adventure, college composition 2 and interpersonal communications.
The goal is to be a chemical dependency counselor, she said, and the semester beginning will be the first step on that path.
Nearby, Stacey Teicher, 18, of Sanborn, was looking for a planner. The beginning veterinary technician student said she thought she might need one. She had already ordered her books online, at a cost of about $400.
The women and the other students in the bookstore Friday morning will be joining several thousand students who will begin the fall semester Monday morning at the college's Hutchinson and Willmar campuses.
Enrollment figures aren't available for this school year yet, but the college served a total of 4,979 students on its two campuses last year, about half of them full-time students, according to the Ridgewater page on the website for Minnesota State, the state agency overseeing the state's public colleges and universities.
Ridgewater's students were 54 percent female and 45 percent male last year, according to the website. Students of color made up 13 percent of the student body.
The college offers more than 100 programs offering college degrees and technical education.
When school opens, the cafeteria on the second floor of the student center will open, too.
Friday, manager Barb Kluver of Lancer Hospitality and her staff members were getting ready for the first day of school. A custodian was vacuuming and rearranging chairs.
"There's a lot to do after you close down for a couple months," she said. Orders had been delivered, and the crew was busy sorting and stocking the cafeteria.
"By Monday, everything will be ready, and they'll all be smiling," Kluver said. She'd be glad to be busy again, she said.
The cafeteria serves 150 to 300 students a day, depending on the day. "The ag students are strong supporters," she said.
The cafeteria serves mostly late breakfasts and lunches, she said. It closes at 2 p.m. each day.