Does Cape Girardeau need a community college? - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Does Cape Girardeau need a community college?

The Cape Girardeau Education Coalition Task Force requested a study to determine the need for a community college. The Cape Girardeau Education Coalition Task Force requested a study to determine the need for a community college.

By Kathy Sweeney - bio | email

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Does Cape Girardeau need a community college?

It's a question that's been quietly debated for years and now made public with a release of a new Educational Needs Analysis.  The study comes at the request of the Cape Girardeau Education Coalition Task Force, a small but diverse group of community, business, and education leaders.  They paid a Florida research firm to try and answer the question. 

The newly completed analysis did find a need for another educational option.  Interviews with community members and focus groups uncovered "perceived gaps and barriers to successful higher education opportunities for students in the Cape Girardeau area:"

  • Older/non-traditional students overwhelmed by the number of younger students at Southeast
  • The number of younger students at the CTC
  • Driving/transportation issues
  • First generation college students with low expectations of their prospects for college entry or advancement

The study lays out five options for meeting that educational need:

  1. Multi-Provider Model: A collaboration between Southeast Missouri State and the region's existing community colleges.
  2. Expanded Services of Existing Community Colleges
  3. Converting the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center into a Community College
  4. Building a New Community College
  5. Creating a Community College Division Within Southeast Missouri State University

The research also lays out pros and cons for each option.  The collaborative, multi-provider model would use existing space, and could be up and running quickly.  But, each participating school has different tuition rates, and credit transfers could be a problem.

If existing community colleges expanded, costs would also stay down and the programming would be strong, but each school would still focus on its main campus and may not be able to offer as much.  Converting CTC into a community college would also cost less and be ready to go at a known and accessible location. 

On the downside, though, it would take a few years to make the transition and there would be cost to the community.  Building a brand new school would offer a fresh start, with new program offerings and set tuition rates.  But, it's the most costly option by far and would take the longest time to open. 

Southeast already has the programming in place and could create its own community college division.  This option also puts the cost squarely on the shoulders of the University, which the study lists as an advantage.  However, University President Dr. Ken Dobbins points out his current one million dollar budget deficit. 

"We can't take money away from our main business of operating the University to start and establish something like this," Dobbins saID.

On the con side, the study points out added costs to Southeast if space is not available, and the fact that only Southeast would set the curriculum.

The study does not lay out a cost for any of the options.  Chamber President John Mehner says the coalition will meet again in the next month, and he hopes they will have a consensus within three months.

"Consensus within the group will be a challenge," Mehner said.  "There are probably going to be one or two members not completely thrilled with what the group is doing."

The coalition will then present that plan to the Missouri Board of Higher Education, which will have the final say.

Weigh in with your opinions below.

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