Community college

Monday, June 18, 2007

The idea of starting a community college in Cape Girardeau has been circulating in the city's coffee klatches and in discussions among business leaders for years. It's finally coming out into the open.

The director of the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center hosted a meeting last week with superintendents and principals from 11 school districts and two private school to discuss the feasibility.

Cape Girardeau businessman Earl Norman and banker Steve Taylor are championing the idea of expanding the center into a community college. They say a community college would help low-income students afford the first two years of post-secondary schooling and provide training in medical technology and other fields local students now must go elsewhere to get.

Southeast Missouri State University clearly has been trying to head off a community college by creating its higher education centers in Kennett, Malden, Sikeston and Perryville. University president Dr. Ken Dobbins has questioned the need for another college.

The unanswerable question at this point is whether enough high school graduates would enroll in a community college, which undoubtedly would be expensive to build and maintain.

The idea faces many hurdles. The Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education would have to approve the plan, as would local voters, who would be asked to create a taxing district. The need would have to be established through a survey.

The Missouri Department of Economic Development and the University of Missouri are planning a study on the need for post-secondary education and job training. The results of that study could give the community college idea a big push -- or send it back to the coffee klatches.

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