Classes will start in June for a summer science course at Cape Girardeau County's new higher education center and enrollment for fall is expected to begin soon.
Organizers of the project took a step forward last week in securing facilities for a community college that has been in the works for years. The Cape Girardeau School Board approved a lease April 19 allowing Southeast Missouri State University and Three Rivers Community College to use space at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center and Cape Girardeau Central High School. At the meeting, the center's director, Rich Payne, referred to the lease as a domino to set off other decisions.
"Now we can start working on the other pieces," he later said.
A group of business and education leaders received approval from the Coordinating Board for Higher Education in December to enact their plan to bring community college services to the county. The group commissioned a study on the demand for services and met for more than two years before reaching an agreement in November between Three Rivers, Southeast, Mineral Area College, Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing and Health Sciences and the Cape Girardeau School District, which owns the Career and Technology Center.
An adviser will begin working out of the career center and helping staff handle calls about the higher education center. Payne said interest in the project has been ongoing.
"Now we can locate that person here at the Career and Technology Center," he said.
The lease ends August 2011, but there is an option to renew for two years. The decision to move will depend on the demand, Payne said.
Community college officials point to 13 percent jumps in enrollment last fall as evidence of what could happen with an open-enrollment junior college facility in Cape Girardeau. Southeast also offers open enrollment for students within a 50-mile radius, the university's service region.
Four classrooms at the career center and two science labs at Central will be the first home to the higher education center.
Because the Career and Technology Center does not offer biology and chemistry classes, science classes will be held at Central High School during the summer and in the evening during the fall.
A biology class will be offered during the summer and there have been two enrollment sessions for the course, Payne said. Enrollment is expected to begin soon for the 44 courses to be offered in the fall, he said.
Southeast and Three Rivers will collectively pay $250 per month plus a class period fee of $10 per class. Payne said the rent is comparable to Southeast's relationship at the Perryville Higher Education Center and other similar arrangements in the area.
The presidents from Southeast, Mineral Area and Three Rivers, who were involved with steering the initial decisions of the center, will meet in mid May, said Dr. Steven Kurtz, president of Mineral Area College. Mineral Area did not sign the lease because it already had a relationship with the career center and invested a million dollars in training equipment there, he said.
The higher education center's name, other marketing decisions and an advisory committee are components that still need work.
Kurtz was charged with putting together the committee, which will include 14 members. There will be representatives from three school districts -- Cape Girardeau, Jackson and one at-large district -- that send students to the Career and Technology Center. Payne said Delta superintendent Nate Crowden will serve that role. Other committee representatives will come from the business community and participating institutions.
Representatives will serve three-year staggered terms, he said. The bylaws and staggered terms have to be finalized, but he said he hopes the group will meet in the summer.
The committee will offer advice, but the governing board of participating institutions will make decisions regarding the project.
"Opportunity for input is the main purpose of the council," Kurtz said.
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