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Ridgewater students start a new year today

Linda Vanderwerf / TribuneRidgewater College bookstore manager Judy Meyering stands near the front counter of the store Friday. Classes begin today for the 2017-18 school year.1 / 5
Linda Vanderwerf / Tribune The Longs of Champlin, from left, mom Jolene, daughter Chloe, and dad Jeff, were in Willmar Friday to get Chloe ready for her first year of college at Ridgewater. Classes begin today for the 2017-18 school year.2 / 5
Linda Vanderwerf / Tribune Chloe Long of Champlin, left, fills out the rental agreement Friday for books in the Ridgewater College veterinary technician program. Looking on is her mother, Jolene Long, and book store manager Judy Meyering. Classes begin today for the 2017-18 school year.3 / 5
Linda Vanderwerf / Tribune The Longs of Champlin, from left, mom Jolene, daughter Chloe, and dad Jeff, were in Willmar Friday to get Chloe ready for her first year of college at Ridgewater. Classes begin today for the 2017-18 school year.4 / 5
Linda Vanderwerf / Tribune Brianna Seurer of Zimmerman looks over the T-shirt selection in the Ridgewater College bookstore Friday. Classes begin today for the 2017-18 school year.5 / 5

WILLMAR — Chloe Long filled out the rental agreement for some of her books, and she was ready to start the Ridgewater College veterinary technology program today.

Long, with her parents Jolene and Jeff Long of Champlin, took care of her books Friday afternoon in the Ridgewater bookstore.

Today is the official start of the school year for most of Minnesota's public colleges and universities, including Ridgewater's Willmar and Hutchinson campuses.

Ridgewater begins the year with a new interim president Joe Opatz. Opatz was appointed after the contract of former president Doug Allen was not renewed last spring.

Enrollment figures for this year won't be available for several weeks. According to the website for Minnesota State, which oversees most of the state's public colleges, Ridgewater had the equivalent of 2,730 full-time students in the past year. Colleges have a mixture of full-time and part-time students, which they combine into the measure of full-time equivalents.

The enrollment includes 56 percent full-time students and the rest part-time; 54 percent of students are female; 13 percent are students of color.

The college had an average annual tuition of $5,370 and annual fees of $579 in the 2016-17 school year, according to Minnesota State at www.minnstate.edu.

The Longs were among the people who took advantage of the bookstore's extended hours on Friday.

Chloe said she was excited to start her program and looked forward to getting to know Willmar.

She'd bought some books and rented the ones she could. One of her required texts was an ebook, too.

Renting costs about half what buying the books would have, she said.

After they take Chloe's twin brother to Texas A&M this week, the Longs will be empty nesters. "We're going to get more dogs," Jeff Long said.

Brianna Seurer of Zimmerman, a second-year vet tech student, was browsing through the Ridgewater T-shirts Friday afternoon as she looked forward to starting her second year in the program, which will include an internship. Eventually, she'd like to work in a large animal veterinary practice or one that serves a mix of large and small animals, she said.

Bookstore manager Judy Meyering said the store was busy late last week, and she expects that to continue this week.

Students who register late will be in looking for their books during this first week, she said. In some cases, they could find bare shelves and have to wait while the bookstore orders the books they need. In other cases, their instructors will be using an online textbook.

The bookstore has a selection of extra-large book bags on wheels, which Meyering expects to be gone by the end of the week.

Students in programs with lots of materials, like the nursing, vet tech and med tech programs, will be in looking for them, she said. The store has a variety in solid colors and prints.

"They carry all their books one day, and that's it," she said. "We sell a ton of them on wheels."

Clothing sales are likely to pick up, too. "We have good support from students and staff," she said, and shirts related to the sports season are usually popular. The store was ready with shelves of shirts for football and volleyball, the school's fall sports.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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