After three-year experiment, higher ed partnership continues

Friday, July 26, 2013
Veronica Stone takes her Compass test at Cape Girardeau's Career and Technology Center on Thursday. The test places incoming students in their math and writing skills. Stone is furthering her education in social work and psychology. (Laura Simon)

When the Cape Girardeau Partnership for Higher Education was created in 2010 among Southeast Missouri State University, Mineral Area College and Three Rivers College, it was given a three-year minimum to determine whether it would be a success.

The conclusion of the 2012-2013 academic year marked the end of the partnership's third year, and enrollment efforts for the fourth year already have begun. According to Tinea Ortega, coordinator of academic programs for the partnership, enrollment for fall semesters is typically about 280. This is up from the first semester in the fall of 2010, when it offered 29 courses and had 183 students enrolled.

"We have steady enrollment, but there's room for growth," she said.

The partnership was designed to offer general education instruction that would allow students in Cape Girardeau and neighboring counties to earn college credits for select two-year associates degrees or to transfer to a four-year college.

Students enrolling this year will have 42 courses from which to choose, although six have been filled, according to Ortega. She said the classes that fill the fastest are basic college courses such as English and algebra, and psychology classes are popular as well.

The average student seeking enrollment is a full-time, traditional student who has just graduated or graduated less than two years ago from high school and seeks to transfer to Southeast Missouri State University, according to Ortega.

On Thursday, the partnership held an open enrollment event at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center, where its courses are offered. Catherine Neal, a 2012 graduate of Jackson High School, was there enrolling for her first college classes.

"I'm enrolling so that by the time the next semester starts, I can go to [Southeast]," she said.

Neal, who enrolled as a full-time student, is taking basic college prerequisite courses. She said taking them through the partnership was "definitely easier" than jumping straight into college.

According to career and technology center director Rich Payne, the center is working with the partnership to continue to make the transition from high school to college easier. Beginning this fall, high school students attending any of the center's 13 landing schools, which span from Advance, Mo., to Jackson, can enroll in dual-credit courses.

"Transportation-wise, students can use one bus to come to this location to do required coursework, then return to their landing school upon completion of coursework," Payne said.

He also said courses would be offered to students at a reduced rate, which will save money as they begin working toward a degree.

Many students enrolled in classes with the partnership who already have graduated high school are saving money by using A+ scholarships. These scholarships cover tuition costs and general fees for community colleges and vocational/technical schools. Ortega had no exact enrollment numbers, but there has "definitely been an increase" in the number of students using A+ since the partnership's first semester.

The partnership also will offer tuition assistance for qualifying students pursuing careers in health care and advanced manufacturing, thanks to an innovative campus grant from the Department of Economic Development.

Payne said these cost-saving measures are key in helping students continue their education.

"The whole concept is to help students get on the fast track to earning a degree, whether it's a two-year or four-year degree," he said.

Southeast Missouri State University President Dr. Ken Dobbins said he believes the partnership has been, and will continue to be, a success because it attracts students that might not have otherwise attended college.

"I think there is an indication that we do need something like this: not a full-blown community college, but just a few classes for students to see if they can handle college courses," he said. "And many are finding that they can; so in that way, it's been a success."

srinehart@semissourian.com

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Pertinent address:

1080 S. Silver Springs Road, Cape Girardeau, Mo.ng

Map of pertinent addresses

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