SIKESTON -- Students who attend the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center will now be able to earn a four-year degree without even setting foot on the Southeast Missouri State University campus, the university's president, Kenneth W. Dobbins, announced Friday.
"This is an historic event in the history of Southeast Missouri State University and the history of the higher education centers," Dobbins said.
In addition to Sikeston, students at higher education centers in Kennett and Malden will also be able to complete a Bachelor of General Studies beginning this summer. Currently the only degree-completion programs offered by Southeast at the centers are bachelor's and master's degrees in education.
Dobbins said the Bachelor of General Studies is a very flexible degree with no major or minor required, but students can select an emphasis in such areas as business, communication, criminal justice, industrial management or psychology.
Currently SAHEC serves approximately 1,600 students.
"I always knew Sikeston would be bigger than all of the centers, but I didn't think it would happen in three years. And that's all because of its location, the community and the industrial activity in Sikeston," Dobbins said.
Included in the course offerings will be the 42-credit hour transfer or "general education" block, which can be used toward any Southeast degree or may transfer the credits to other institutions.
Many of the courses will be taught by Southeast faculty face-to-face at the centers, while others will be available on the Web or by instructional television.
Also beginning this summer, Three Rivers Community College will no longer offer 100- and 200-level general education courses at the area higher education centers. Instead those courses will be offered by Southeast faculty and student transcripts will reflect that the courses were taken from Southeast Missouri State University.
"We have asked Three Rivers to continue offering technical courses in its Associate of Applied Science degree programs, as well as work force development and customized training at the area centers," Dobbins said.
SAHEC students enrolled in TRCC courses this spring will be able to transfer those credits to Southeast, Dobbins said.
"The No. 1 goal is to serve the students and make this an easy transition," Dobbins said.
Dobbins said the transition to Southeast offering all courses at the centers will simplify students' lives because they will have only one admission form, one class registration process each semester, one fee payment date, one financial aid system and one textbook rental program.
Currently students enrolled in both TRCC and Southeast courses receive separate bills, have to get their books at separate programs and have to juggle two school calendars, which usually have different spring breaks, Dobbins noted.
"We're ready to build our success and it's an evolutionary-type process. We will help provide more access to higher education at lower costs," Dobbins said.
Under a new fee structure, up to 57 credit hours of 100- and 200- level courses taught at the centers by Southeast faculty or interactive television will have an incidental fee of $110 per credit hour for summer and fall 2005 and spring 2006 compared $157 per credit hour for students who attend classes on the Cape campus.
The reduced charge is possible because the University's cost of delivering courses and services is somewhat lower in the centers than at Cape Girardeau.
For example, students at the centers do not have to pay the general fees charges for athletics, student recreation and other such services available on the campus, Dobbins said.
"I think it's outstanding," said Judy Buck, SAHEC director. "We're offering university courses at an affordable fee, and we're opening doors for students to work on a four-year degree and pick up a block of classes."
This summer Southeast will invest $250,000 to upgrade all higher education center computers used by students, Dobbins said, adding, most of the computers used by students at the three centers are four to five years old.
Currently Southeast loses $800,000 annually in operating the three centers. In order for Southeast to provide the expanded educational services and programs at the centers and break even financially, the University must teach thee freshman and sophomore level courses, Dobbins said.
Dobbins noted advisors at the three centers will work with each student during the registration period beginning Monday to develop a class schedule for the summer and/or fall semesters.
Sikeston Mayor Mike Marshall said he's very pleased with news of the expansion.
"We've always used SAHEC to promote Sikeston and to bring in new jobs. We'll tell others we offer a few college courses and now we can say we offer four-year courses."
He continued: "It's just one more tool to help promote the community. I'm tickled to death about it."
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