The role of community colleges in Cape Girardeau County has received considerable attention in recent months. At issue is whether or not there is a need for a full-blown community college, as a few community leaders have urged, or whether or not partnerships with already existing community colleges can fill the perceived needs.
Meanwhile, Southeast Missouri State University has considerable interest in programs offered in the county by Three Rivers Community College of Poplar Bluff and Mineral Area Community College in Park Hills.
Cape Girardeau County is not in a taxing district for any community college. But since 1993, when lines were drawn, the county has been in the Three Rivers service area. Over the years, however, more programs, such as those at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center, have been offered through a partnership with Mineral Area.
Three Rivers says it intends to open an education center in Cape Girardeau County by next fall, but the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education has yet to give its approval.
Meanwhile, nine school superintendents in the county -- along with the director of the career and technology center, Rich Payne -- recently sent letters to the commissioner of higher education requesting that Cape Girardeau officially be moved to the Mineral Area service area from the Three Rivers service area as established in 1993. At the heart of this request appears to be an interest in preserving the programs already offered here by Mineral Area.
While it hasn't mattered so much in the past, the issue of alignment with a community college has arisen because of the increased interest in offering programs here by both community colleges. It's clear which community college local school officials would prefer. Now it's up to the CBHE to resolve the matter -- a decision that has some urgency because of Three Rivers' plans for next year.