Three Rivers enrollment tops 4,800

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One week into classes, Three Rivers College has reported more than 4,800 students are enrolled on campuses in Poplar Bluff, Dexter, Kennett, Cape Girardeau, Malden, Portageville and Sikeston.

The duplicated headcount -- which means students who are taking classes at multiple campuses may be counted more than once -- is nearly 14 percent more than the 4,235 students the college had at census in the fall of 2011. Census is taken four weeks into the semester. Three Rivers topped 4,000 for the first time that semester.

"Three Rivers continues to set records for enrollment by meeting the needs of area residents and employers," said Three Rivers President Dr. Devin Stephenson said in a news release. "We have had great success by taking higher education to our students rather than requiring students to come to us."

Students are taking about 52,000 credit hours of classes, a 17.8 percent increase over the fall 2011 census.

Enrollment increases are taking place across Three Rivers' service area. The amount of credit hours students taken by as of Aug. 17 compared to fall 2011 were (approximate): Dexter 3,380, up 101 percent; Kennett 3,600, up 56 percent; Malden 1,350, up 8 percent; Portageville 360, up 143 percent; Sikeston 4,500, up 15 percent.

Dexter Center coordinator Bill Hampton believes one of his campus' reasons for success is that they tailor offerings to the needs of the community.

"We've gone from 110 students to (434) in a year and a half. It's pretty amazing," Hampton said, of the relatively new campus, which operates from an old hat factory renovated to serve students.

In that time, the center's diesel technician certificate program has grown from three students to 46.

The group includes two East Prairie seniors who will graduate from the certificate program 10 days after they receive their high school diplomas, Hampton said, adding Dexter often receives calls from Southeast Missouri employers ready to hire graduates.

The diesel program has room for another five students in the entry level class this semester, according to Hampton.

The campus can accommodate another 100 students, but its most popular classes, night and evening offerings, are so full Hampton has to fill in directing traffic in the parking lot a few nights a week.

Kennett Center director Derrick Miller also finds afternoon and evening classes to be the most popular choices among students. The campus had 346 students as of Aug. 17.

"We were really at capacity last fall," he said. "The problem now, the prime time from 3:30-9:15 p.m., every classroom is full. The only way we could expand was to offer more classes during the day."

The center is seeing a real need for more programs in career and workforce training where students can start and finish in Kennett in the evening, Miller said.

The attraction for his students, according to Miller, is affordable tuition.

Many attending classes are non-traditional students who are also juggling family and work. Staff make it a priority to walk these students through planning their courses and education.

"They need the opportunity to build skills without tipping over the scale on the family budget," he said.

Without education, students may work in low pay, entry level positions that do not provide the ability to make a family supporting wage, Miller said. Other students seek more education and training because they are able to make a family supporting wage, but little more.

Miller believes that by seeking more education, students are also making their community more attractive to businesses looking for a trained workforce.

Sikeston Center director Missy Marshall also believes that when residents are well-prepared, the area will grow economically and improve the quality of life. The center has 528 students this fall.

"We've been concentrating on customer service and student success," she said in a press release. "We are reaching out to our employers and constituents along the I-55 corridor to make sure that Three Rivers College is meeting area needs."

The Cape Girardeau Partnership for Higher Education reported an enrollment of 282 students today, similar to what they had in fall last year.

As of Aug. 17, Malden had a duplicated headcount of 196 and Portageville 53.

Three Rivers has seen sustained growth in the last four years, according to Three Rivers Director of Communications Teresa Johnson. Enrollment was a little more than 3,000 at the fall 2008 census, growing about 400 students by fall 2009 and another 300 by fall 2010.

"We are striving to be as responsive as possible and that is helping to fuel growth," said Dr. Wesley Payne, Three Rivers vice president for learning. "This includes increasing dual credit and dual enrollment classes for high school students, creating more seamless pathways for college transfer students, and staying cutting edge with our career education programs."

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