Southeast Missouri State University President Ken Dobbins spoke about the changes the University is undergoing, its successes and the future.
"Southeast Missouri University is in the process of reinventing itself," said Dobbins. He added the school is moving from "a good university to a great university."
To make his point he noted the university was recently named by U.S. News and World Report in the top tier of Midwest schools and the Princeton Review ranked the school's business college among the nation's best. Also SEMO's mass communication's department has received national accreditations, the highest a school can achieve, he said.
"There are a lot of things going for us in providing a quality education," said Dobbins.
Apparently students and parents realize this. Dobbins announced SEMO's enrollment has passed 10,000 for the first time in the school's history. This year saw a 12 percent increase in the number of freshmen and a 6 percent increase in undergraduate students; enrollment at the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center is up 17 percent.
The University's goal for SAHEC and the other regional campuses, according to Dobbins, is to make sure all students are served with the same quality education that is provided on campus at Cape Girardeau. To that end, he explained, the University provided new lab equipment and computers at the area higher education centers.
With the support of Sikeston voters who continued a tax to fund construction at SAHEC, Dobbins said the center is continuing to expand with new classrooms opening for the spring semester. The new childcare center will provide an option for non-traditional students in need of care for their children while providing an internship program for students in early childhood education.
Expressing appreciation to voters, Dobbins added: "We are pleased that the students have decided to come to the center you have invested in."
Also gaining popularity is the SEMO's on-line classes, the university official said.
To better serve the increasing student population, Dobbins explained the school has developed a Student Transition Program. The program is designed to work with students throughout their college careers, requiring freshmen to take an interest inventory to better determine possible education and career goals. Career counselors will work with academic advisors to provide input on the main and regional campuses.
"We think this will also cut down on the number of people changing majors and will lead to students graduating on time," said Dobbins.
The new program will also work to provide more internship opportunities and assist students prior to their senior year in preparing resumes and cover letters as well as posting their information for employers.
Southeast Missouri State is currently the only Missouri institution offering such a program, Dobbins said.
While some higher education administrators are promoting a tuition stabilization program, which would set the costs for four years of college, Dobbins cautioned it might not be the best solution. In order to determine what to charge, administrators would have to anticipate how much costs would increase and whether the Legislature would raise or decrease funding.
"With tuition stabilization you guess then you guess a little more. What if you miscalculate? Then you have to put that miscalculation on the backs of next year's freshmen," Dobbins said.
Pointing out SEMO's tuition costs are among the lowest in Missouri, he is promoting a plan where the cost increase would be based on two times the Consumer Price Index or a maximum of $450 per year. According to Dobbins this would keep SEMO's costs below what the tuition stabilization program would require.
"Our goal is the give a quality education at the best price possible," he concluded.
In other Chamber news:
* The Chamber's golf tournament, which was rained out, is rescheduled for Sept. 26. If rained out again, it will be played Oct. 3, said Missy Marshall, SACC executive director.
* The next Chamber meeting will be Oct. 27 at the Clinton Building.
* The Sikeston Proud Food Drive filled an entire semi-truck with food, according to Ron Tate with First Assembly of God Church. The food was delivered to the Convoy of Hope which took it to Hamlin, La., for distribution.