WORTHINGTON — Legislation passed during the 2019 session means that Minnesota West Community & Technical College will award 18 new $2,500 scholarships this coming fall to students whose areas of study are in the high-demand areas of advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care, information technology, early childhood and transportation.

Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra explained that in 2017, a $1 million pilot program was launched that created 40 scholarships in high-demand fields, seven of which were allotted to Minnesota West. The Workforce Development Scholarship Program has been "very successful" so far, and this year was expanded by $7 million. The 2019-2020 school year at Minnesota West will have 25 of these scholarships total, with more to be added in the coming years, Malhotra said.

"Due to severe work shortages, graduating students will get high-paying jobs," Malhotra added.

"I am under no delusion that $8 million will solve the workforce shortage in the state of Minnesota," he continued. "But I want to bring awareness about the results we get when we have the resources to support our students."

Malhotra said the Workforce Development Scholarship Program is a good for communities in a number of ways.

"It's not only a good economic strategy, it's also good social policy," he said, citing research that shows that communities are more likely to sustain high-paying jobs if the population is educated.

Malhotra noted that Workforce Development Scholarships are "first-dollar" awards, meaning that recipients are not excluded from receiving additional state and/or federal aid.

Although the scholarships are not strictly needs-based, Malhotra pointed out that about one-third of students in the Minnesota State system come from low-income families. At Minnesota West, that metric is about 50%. He said that makes it fairly likely that low-income students will receive these scholarships.

Since the program's inception, about 80% of recipients have stayed in Minnesota to work following graduation, Malhotra added.

Minnesota West Workforce Development Scholarship applications are due Aug. 1.