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Editorial: Cape partnership

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Area students soon will be back in school for the fall semester, including those attending classes at the Cape Girardeau Partnership for Higher Education.

Recently the Southeast Missourian reported on the future of the partnership, a coordinated effort between Southeast Missouri State University, Mineral Area College and Three Rivers College.

The CGPHE is heading into its fourth year at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center. A minimum of three years to test the success of the operation initially was planned, and according to Rich Payne, director at the career and technology center, the partnership is now running on a perpetual basis.

It appears the partnership is meeting a need. Enrollment has increased from 183 students in the fall of 2010 with 29 courses to 279 students in 40 courses during the fall 2012 semester.

It's important for this community to offer educational opportunities beyond high school. Between the Career and Technology Center, Southeast Missouri State University and the partnership, these opportunities exist.

Students may choose to attend the partnership for a variety of reasons. The A+ Scholarship program is one. The scholarship is offered to students who have met specific requirements and are pursuing an associate degree. Other financial savings can serve as an incentive.

The partnership is an option for students who may not be academically prepared to attend Southeast Missouri State. Still others may seek the small-school environment.

We hope the institutions continue to work together as long as a need exists and it makes sense, but there are some challenges that exist.

As we have previously argued here, the partnership is an institution without a strong brand. The Cape Girardeau Partnership for Higher Education is a descriptive name, but for a student looking at the available options, what does this really mean?

Some officials argue that the words community college cannot be a part of the name. In a recent interview, Payne reiterated this point and that such naming would imply a specific level of service.

While the partnership isn't a community college, it's effectively one for many students. Either they are pursuing an associate degree or taking courses to transfer to a four-year university, Southeast Missouri State being the preferred choice for many.

Payne left open the possibility that the words "college center" could be part of the name, similar to the way Southeast Missouri State operates regional campuses. However, the participating institutions would have to agree to the name change. We believe renaming the institution to include the word "college" would be advantageous to the enterprise.

A second concern is the enrollment process. We've heard anecdotally that this has been an issue for some students. With three institutions involved and only one adviser -- though a student worker and administrative assistant work at the partnership -- we can imagine the potential challenges.

Payne said the enrollment process has been cleaned up, but we encourage the institutions to consider options to further streamline the process.

We appreciate the work of the advisory board, career and technology center and participating institutions. A need has been identified and partially met, but there are opportunities to improve the enterprise for students and their families.


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