Southeast seeks degree-granting powers for its Sikeston, Malden, Kennett centers

Sunday, May 16, 2010

As more associate degree opportunities come to Cape Girardeau County, Southeast Missouri State University is looking to spread degree offerings to its Bootheel centers.

During a post-commencement meeting Saturday, the board of regents directed the university to pursue degree-granting powers at its Sikeston, Kennett and Malden centers.

In letters to board president Brad Bedell, the advisory councils of the growing centers expressed interest in bringing associate of art degrees to the area.

"Such degrees would provide students the opportunity to reach a short-term goal before moving forward to their goal of completing a bachelor's degree, in addition to being able to access more scholarship and grant funding," said Jackie Cowan, president of the Sikeston council, in a letter.

By offering degrees, students could pursue A+ funding, state money for two years of community college for qualifying high school graduates. Southeast president Dr. Ken Dobbins said Southeast offers university-sponsored scholarships to A+ students. There would also be work-force development funds available for displaced workers.

Associate of art degrees are used primarily to obtain and transfer core curriculum classes to four-year universities. The plan would not add courses, teachers or expenses to the centers.

"If we do this, we will not teach any more courses than we already do," Dobbins said.

Board member James Limbaugh asked if there were any reasons why the university wouldn't consider the plan.

"What's the down side?" he said.

Dobbins said the Coordinating Board for Higher Education will question whether offering associate degrees fits within the mission of a four-year university. The coordinating board would have to approve the plan.

"I will tell you, we will have all the community colleges concerned," Dobbins said.

He said the desire for associate degrees stems from the centers, which have large financial commitments from their communities through scholarships, initial investments and fundraising for expansions.

Southeast started its first regional center in Malden more than 23 years ago when Harry Crisp Sr. donated a $3.6 million vacant Pepsi plant. City and community contributions for expansions and scholarships totaled more than $1.5 million, according to university documents.

The center reported 221 students during its first academic year, 1988. During fall 2009, the center enrolled more than 260 students.

Voters in Sikeston approved a $3 million sales tax issue in 1998 to build a center there. Southeast originally offered classes in the Sikeston Area Vocational-Technical School in 1994 with 150 students. The new building opened in 2000 with an enrollment of 500, and it reported an enrollment of 866 students in fall 2009.

The city of Kennett donated a $1 million Kroger supermarket building to open a center there in 2000. Enrollment has since grown from 95 students to 289.

Doyle Privett, chairman of the Kennett advisory council, is also a member of the board of regents. He said the center initially served nontraditional students but that there is a growing population of traditional students. There has been an interest in offering degrees since the center was established, he said.

Some students do not want to pursue a four-year degree, but there is a growing desire among employers for degrees, Privett said.

"We think there are other students out there like that," he said.

Higher tuition

In other action, the board approved fee increases for the upcoming academic year. There was little discussion on the increases, which were significantly higher for graduate students. However, the board directed the administration to continue its momentum in other areas as it continues to trim its budget.

Missouri undergraduate tuition will remain $208.50 per credit hour for the third year in a row, which is in accordance with an agreement with Gov. Jay Nixon. Out-of-state undergraduates will pay $10 more next year with a tuition rate of $373 per credit hour.

In-state graduate students will pay $261 per credit hour, a 11.4 percent increase, while out-of state graduates will pay $465.50, a 12.3 percent increase. A $250 program fee charged to graduate students in nursing and communication disorders will be eliminated.


Pertinent address:

One University Plaza Cape Girardeau, MO

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