That was in 2010, and the end of the 2012-2013 academic year will mark the partnership's third year of existence. Officials at the partnership's member institutions are optimistic about prospects of keeping the effort intact.
"I would classify the partnership as a success," said Dr. Ken Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University. "Because of it, there's been students who have gone into higher education who ordinarily wouldn't have had the opportunity to do so. It's something I support and assume will continue."
The partnership offers general education instruction that allows students in Cape Girardeau and neighboring counties to earn prerequisites that will transfer to a four-year college. Students also can take advantage of associate of arts programs administered through the Poplar Bluff, Mo.-based Three Rivers and associate of applied science programs issued through Mineral Area in Park Hills, Mo.
Courses are offered at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center, and enrollment in programs and course offerings has grown steadily since the partnership began. In the first semester [fall 2010], 183 students were enrolled in 29 courses. Fall 2011 saw an enrollment of 256 students in 47 courses. By fall 2012, there were 279 students in 40 courses.
"I'm thrilled that we've seen an increase in enrollment over the years," Becker said. "It shows that the partnership is filling a gap for students who at one point may have thought they didn't have a chance at higher education."
Becker explained a reduction in the number of courses offered last fall.
"The courses offered through the partnership are based on enrollment and student need," she said. "We had courses like Business Law and Accounting that were dropped because there weren't many students seeking to take them."
Dr. Steven Kurtz, president of Mineral Area College, is satisfied with the progress the partnership has made.
"I'm optimistic about the future," Kurtz said.
He cautioned that any member institution's withdrawal from the partnership would mean the end of the collaborative effort.
"That's what I believe to be the case," he added. "But I can't foresee that happening with the success we've all had in bringing higher education to people in Cape Girardeau County. We have no intention of leaving the partnership."
"We at Mineral Area want to see them move forward and get their bachelor's degree at Southeast," he said.
Dr. Devin Stephenson, president of Three Rivers, was unavailable to comment as of Thursday afternoon. But Dr. Wesley Payne, Three Rivers' vice president for learning, said the college wants the partnership to work in the best possible way.
"We intend to continue serving the citizens of Cape Girardeau County through the partnership," Payne said. "It's a unique opportunity to provide a service that otherwise wouldn't be there."
Payne also expressed a desire to see an overall increase in student enrollment.
"We had a goal of 350 students by fall 2012," he said. "I felt that would be a low number, but we've fallen short."
According to Payne, the partnership should be reaching out not only to high school seniors interested in higher education, but to adults as well.
"I think that couldn't help but bring in more quality students," he said. "There are many adults out there who feel they may have missed out on obtaining higher education. The partnership in Cape Girardeau is open to them, too."
Any decision reached by the institutions to either continue or disband the partnership will have to secure the approval of Dr. David Russell, director of the Missouri Department of Higher Education. Russell said in an email to the Southeast Missourian that he supports the partnership.
"The Cape Girardeau Higher Education Partnership is a good example of institutions coming together to serve the needs of students," he said. "It delivers coursework in high-demand fields to prepare Southeast Missouri residents to enter the workforce, improve their earning power and obtain credentials that will help them succeed in life."
Pertinent addresses: 1080 Silver Springs Road, Cape Girardeau, Mo.
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