Ridgewater College, Southwest Initiative Foundation team up to assist students taking child care classes

The Southwest Initiative Foundation and Ridgewater College will offer tuition assistance and other funding for students studying child care, hoping the effort could ease a shortage of workers.

Ridgewater College's sign shows a welcome message on Sept. 3, 2020.
Kelly Boldan / West Central Tribune file photo

WILLMARRidgewater College and the Southwest Initiative Foundation have a new partnership to give child care workers an incentive to advance in their field by earning their higher education credential.

The partnership is providing up to $30,000 to assist students with tuition and other costs for a group of 11 who will begin the program in March.

The program is aimed at current child care workers who have no higher education credential or who wish to advance to being a mid-level teacher.

It also targets historically marginalized populations in Kandiyohi , Meeker and McLeod counties, and the Lower Sioux Community .

Students will be able to take one or two classes at a time, which will allow them to continue working at their current jobs while participating in the program.


“Our goal was to recruit, educate and retain workers in an industry that has incredibly high demand right now,” Cindy Salfer, Ridgewater Early Childhood Education instructor, said in a news release this week.

“The availability of child care is one of the factors that contributes to the economic development of the region,” said Jeff Miller, Ridgewater dean of instruction.

Ridgewater is working to develop programs to address critical workforce needs, and child care workers are in demand, he said.

To keep college costs manageable, students are first applying for financial aid and scholarships, and will also apply for the Southwest Initiative Foundation funding to help control their out-of-pocket costs.

The credits in the program are “stackable,” the release said, which means students who complete a program certificate to be a mid-level teacher could choose to pursue the Early Childhood Education Transfer Pathway Associate in Science degree to become a lead teacher.

To help ensure student success, technical advisers and admissions counselors are available to assist with college application, financial aid and registration — all the steps to get students started on the right foot. In addition, students will have access to language and writing tutors and hands-on internship experiences for practical application.

For more information about the Early Childhood Education program and options, go to .

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