22 attend Partnership for Higher Education enrollment open house

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Cape Girardeau Partnership for Higher Education welcomed students Thursday for an open house enrollment event while a semester approaches that could lead the way to a make or break situation among the region's three higher education institutions.

Rich Payne, director of the Career and Technology Center, said the level of interest at the open houses often signal a preview of the rate at which students will enroll for an upcoming semester. Tinea Ortega, academic adviser for the Partnership, agreed, and said staff are attempting to continue the enrollment rise experienced in previous semesters.

The number of people who attended, 22, was average this time, Ortega said. She did not yet know the number of registrants.

Southeast Missouri State University, Mineral Area College and Three Rivers College formed the Partnership in 2010 to provide access to higher education in a community college setting in the area serviced by the Career and Technology Center. The Partnership is being evaluated this year by the schools to determine if it is viable for continuation beyond a three-year agreement.

This fall the Partnership has an enrollment goal of 350 students in general education courses or Mineral Area and Three Rivers associate degree programs, Ortega said.

The spring semester this year is the only one in which enrollment hasn't risen when compared to the previous semester since the Partnership began. Ortega said a slight drop or leveling off is typical for colleges because often new fall students decide to transfer to another school or decide the college they chose is not working for them. Southeast typically sees its enrollment decrease slightly from fall to spring, and university representatives have said they compare numbers from fall to fall and spring to spring due to that.

"From my end, enrollment is steadily increasing," Ortega said.

The Partnership had 183 students in fall 2010 and 284 in fall 2011. Spring 2012 had 283.

Presidents of all three schools have said they expect the growth to continue. In December, Southeast's provost for online and extended learning said there was a need to continue evaluating enrollment trends and program offerings and that efforts to market the Partnership would continue.

Dean Whitlow, assistant director of the Career and Technology Center, works with high school students who gain articulated credit. Students who earn credits through the center's programs while in high school have all required courses completed for applied science associate degrees offered by the community colleges and only need to finish general education requirements following high school to earn the degrees.

"I am finally really seeing high school students take advantage of that," Whitlow said.

He said the number of students pursuing degrees in that manner is growing and that he sees it as a trend that will also lead to continued higher enrollment for the Partnership.

The Partnership proved to be financially viable for Southeast and Three Rivers after a full fiscal year by taking in enough revenue from tuition and fees to create an overage in funds that was then split by the two schools. Per the agreement, those schools split profits and Mineral Area provides programming.

Tiffany Winters, a Scott City High School senior, enrolled in four courses Thursday. Winters said because of the Partnership she can now go to college after putting post-graduation plans to join the Army on hold.

"It saves my life, actually," she said. "I decided to do this so I wouldn't be a bum right after high school."

Winters still sees the Army in her future, but she might consider a transfer to Southeast if all goes well with the Partnership, she said.

Ortega said one of the Partnership's goals is to prepare students for that transition.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

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1080 S. Silver Springs Rd., Cape Girardeau, MO

One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO

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