Southeast, Three Rivers discontinue offering courses at Malden sites

Updated: Jan. 29, 2018 at 1:20 PM CST
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MALDEN, MO (KFVS) - Southeast Missouri State University and Three Rivers College announced on Monday, January 29 they are discontinuing offering courses at their Malden, Missouri campuses.

Southeast President Carlos Vargas and Three Rivers College President Wesley Payne cited budgetary needs, declining enrollments and a decrease in demand for face-to-face and interactive television course offerings at their Malden facilities for the decision to stop face-to-face and ITV coursework there, effective at the end of the spring 2018 semester.

Vargas and Payne said the two institutions will shift their delivery to online offerings while also encouraging Malden-area students to continue their coursework at their nearby locations.

Vargas emphasized that face-to-face and ITV educational offerings will remain available at Southeast's regional campuses in Sikeston and Kennett.

Payne added that Three Rivers students in the Malden ara will be able to continue face-to-face and ITV instruction at their locations in Dexter, Kennett, Sikeston and Piedmont, Missouri, and at the main campus in Poplar Bluff.

Although it has served thousands of students over the years, Vargas said Southeast's total headcount at its Malden campus has steadily declined. In fall 2010, the unduplicated headcount at the Malden campus was 248 and by fall 2017, the total unduplicated headcount had dropped to 106. He said this spring, just 91 students were enrolled in at least on course at Southeast's Malden campus.

Three Rivers' Malden facility experienced similar enrollment declines. In fall 2010, Three Rivers students were enrolled in 1,380 credit hours of coursework, accounting for 92 full-time equivalencies. Payne said that number dropped to 620 credit hours, or 41 full-time equivalencies by fall 2017.

According to Vargas, there are more Southeast students today enrolled as online students from Stoddard and neighboring counties than those enrolled at the Malden campus.

He also cited the growing number of high school students earning dual credit, which has more than doubled since 2012, as a contributing factor to declining numbers who attend Southeast's Malden campus.

"While this is an announcement I regret having to make, I take some comfort in knowing our regional campuses in Sikeston and in Kennett, and Southeast Online, will continue to serve the needs of the many first-time, first-generation and non-traditional students in the Malden area who wish to pursue their educational dreams in the Bootheel without traveling to Cape Girardeau," Vargas said.

Southeast Missouri State University-Malden is housed in the Harry L. Crisp Bootheel Education Center at 700 N. Douglass St. in Malden.

In 1987, Harry L. Crisp II and his wife, the late Rosemary Berkel Crisp, donated a former Pepsi-Cola bottling plant in Malden to the University. The plant became home to the CBEC. The Harry L. Crisp Bootheel Education Center was named in honor of Harry L.'s father. Harry L. is retired as chairman and chief executive officer of Pepsi MidAmerica, a bottling company based in Marion, Ill., founded by Mr. Crisp's father, Harry L. Crisp, Sr.

In fall 2005, Three Rivers began leasing its Malden facility at 2203 Narvel Felts Blvd., where students are enrolled in general education coursework.

Three Rivers' Malden facility offers two interactive television classrooms, a computer lab, a fully equipped science lab and a public access computer center.

Informational sessions for students

Coursework at Southeast's Malden location will end with the close of spring 2018 final exams on May 11.

It will continue its normal operating hours through June 29.

An informational session for Southeast Malden students is planned for 4-6:30 p.m. on Jan. 30 at the Malden campus. Administrators and academic advisors will be on hand to answer questions and explain the timeline for changes in instruction and other options to continue coursework. Students may come and go any time during the session as it is convenient for them.

Coursework at Three Rivers-Malden will end with the close of spring 2018 final exams on May 17. Normal operations will continue through May 25.

College staff will be available during normal hours of operation to answer questions and help students in planning future coursework.

Future plans for Southeast's Malden campus

According to Southeast, moving forward, it will continue to operate its Malden facility for non-credit events, including career development workshops. Online course advisement for Malden area students will continue to be available through Southeast Online as is currently the practice. Operation of the Bootheel Youth Museum will also continue.

Agricultural rice research conducted in the Rice Research Greenhouse at the campus will continue in partnership with the Missouri Rice Research and Merchandising Council and Southeast's Department of Agriculture. The 1,500-square-foot greenhouse is near the Missouri Rice Research Farm on Highway J between Malden and Glennonville, Mo.

Vargas said Southeast may also use the vacated instructional space for events, workshops and satellite space for the University's Economic and Business Engagement Center activities, specifically its Agriculture Technology Virtual Incubation program.

Future plans for Three Rivers College-Malden

Three Rivers currently operates in leased facilities, and while the closing of the location means that there will no longer be a physical presence in the city, students will be served at locations in Dexter and Kennett. Students will also continue to have the opportunity to enroll in online classes as they currently do.

Three Rivers remains committed to serving the area through its Dual-Credit program and plans to continue to offer the Patrons of the Arts shows in the Malden elementary and middle schools.

Southeast's budget challenges

Vargas reviewed the University's budget needs, saying that since spring 2017, the University has worked to analyze services and reorganize departments in every division in response to one-time FY17 withholdings totaling $3.43 million, a 9 percent reduction in its FY18 appropriation, and in anticipation of future reductions to its state appropriation. The University's FY18 budget need is $6.6 million.

Budget saving measures already accepted by Vargas include the elimination of 53.5 to 58.5 vacant and currently filled staff positions; reorganization of units across multiple University divisions and reduced operating budgets; the implementation of a Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program, which resulted in 74 faculty and staff retirements starting Dec. 31, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2018; and changes to the University's employee and retirement benefits program.

A four-month hiring delay will remain in effect at Southeast to provide one-time funds as base budget reductions are implemented in FY19 and FY20.

Even with budget challenges, Southeast is continuing to provide access to an affordable, high quality education for students in the Bootheel. Total headcount last fall at Southeast's Sikeston campus was 612 and at Southeast's Kennett campus was 225.

Vargas said Southeast's undergraduate in-state tuition and fees are the fourth lowest in the state and are at levels approximately 26 percent below national averages; the student loan debt for students graduating from the University is nearly $10,000 below the national average; and that with over 30 specialized accreditations, the programs offered at Southeast are of the highest quality. In the face of declining budgets, Southeast maintains its commitment to serving the region and providing groundbreaking and innovative academic programs to prepare students for jobs of the future.

Three Rivers' budget challenges

Three Rivers has experienced similar budgetary challenges as a result of the 9 percent reduction in its FY18 state appropriation.

Payne said "the continual decline in state appropriations has forced every college in the state to make budget adjustments. With the reduction in state support, Three Rivers has had to look at every area of its operation to determine how best to allocate resources in support of its students."

While Three Rivers has not had to eliminate any filled positions, numerous vacant positions have been either eliminated or remain unfilled in an effort to maintain a balanced budget.

In spite of the reduction in state support and the ensuing budget challenges, Three Rivers remains committed to continuing to serve the region with accessible affordable education. Even as enrollment has declined at its other external locations, they have remained fiscally healthy and continue to provide a robust selection of coursework where it is needed.

"While this decision has been very difficult and is the type of decision that no college wants to make, we will continue to serve students through our online offerings and continue to provide face-to-face and ITV classes in Dexter, Kennett and Sikeston," said Payne.

Despite the reductions in state support last year and the proposed further reduction for the coming year, Three Rivers has been able to continue to provide high-quality instruction while minimizing the impact on tuition.

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