POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- A 20-year-old Van Buren, Mo., forestry major will be the first student to benefit from a series of transfer agreements signed Tuesday between Three Rivers College and the University of Missouri.
The agreements in teaching, nursing, occupational therapy assistant, physical therapy assistant, forestry and health science programs mark Mizzou's first formal agreement with Three Rivers, and first formal presence serving Southeast Missouri residents in their home communities.
Three Rivers students like Justin Warren, who graduates in December, will now be able to make a smooth transition to a bachelor's degree program with the Columbia, Mo.-based school.
The creation of a more integrated higher education system provides cost savings to students, who can also stay in their home communities, and in their lives, for the first two years of their education, according to officials from both schools
"The agreements we sign today establish accessible pathways to higher education for a greater number of students," Dr. Devin Stephenson, president of Three Rivers, said before signing the transfer agreements during a ceremony at the Tinnin Fine Arts Center.
Three Rivers is in negotiations with Mizzou to sign additional transfer agreements, and also plans to reach out to Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo., and Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Ark.
"In the past, we've heard of students from community colleges who would go to a four-year institution, and that institution would not accept all their credits, or they couldn't apply all the coursework into a particular curriculum," Stephenson said. "This will ensure that the students who take their first 60 credit hours here can go to Mizzou as juniors and come out with a bachelor's degree. This is significant, so that you don't see a waste of money or time."
In attendance for the ceremony were a number of staff members from both schools, as well as community leaders, including Butler County Eastern District Commissioner Butch Anderson and Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Terry Stewart.
As a first generation college graduate, University of Missouri Provost Brian Foster said he is passionate about providing greater access.
"Higher education gave me a life I could never have imagined," he explained, adding, "Our role is to provide these kinds of support for the whole state."
This is a wonderful opportunity, according to Foster, because Three Rivers does things MU cannot, while MU does things Three Rivers cannot.
Together, the schools can do things they could not do alone, he said.
Three Rivers, has an open access school, can start students out at all levels, Stephenson said, providing non-traditional students, for instance, with the compensatory course work they need to re-enter school after a long absence.
Mizzou now has agreements in place with all 12 Missouri community colleges, said Dr. Terry Barnes, assistant to the provost for community college partnerships.
The transfer agreements signed Tuesday, such as in nursing, include some bachelor degree programs that can be completed through Three Rivers' classes and online MU classes only.