After state officials gave the green light last Wednesday, allowing Mineral Area College (MAC) to offer a variety of academic programs at Cape College Center for the next five years, Dr. Joe Gilgour, MAC’s president, announced the agreement during MAC’s monthly trustees’ meeting held last Thursday. With the trustees unanimously approving the agreement, the fractious dispute between Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) and the Park Hills-based community college appeared to reach an end.

Members of the state Coordinating Board of Higher Education (CBHE) gave MAC’s proposal its provisional approval, which will let the school offer several dozen associate programs at the Cape College Center for a five-year period made up of lower-level academic courses that it’s likely an incoming university student would take in their first and second years of working towards a four-year degree.

Earlier in the year, MAC took possession of Cape Girardeau County’s geographical jurisdiction from Three Rivers College, which had received authorization to offer academic courses at the college center. MAC agreed to pay Three Rivers $100,000 each year for ten years, Gilgour said, to offset the loss the Poplar Bluff-based community college received from the center.

People are also reading…

SEMO initially opposed MAC’s plan, claiming it had jurisdiction over collegiate academic offerings in Cape Girardeau. Members of the CBHE ordered officials at both schools to attempt a negotiated settlement on the issue, with the deadline for that agreement having passed at the end of May.

In an interview with the Daily Journal, Gilgour explained how the agreement was reached between the two schools.

“We submitted our request in February and that was in time for the April board meeting,” he said. “We got a lot of public support. They opened up for public comment and there were almost 150 letters of public support from the Cape Girardeau area. The state said that was the most public support they’d ever received for any program request they ever had, so we are really humbled by that and really appreciate that support from the community.

“There were some questions about how we’ll interact. I mean, there’s already a university in town. Would we be duplicating programs? Things like this that needed to be answered. The commissioner decided to wait a little longer and have us work with the university and some mediators, so to speak. We were able to come together, and we didn’t come to anything special on that, but the coordinating board’s next meeting was in June and so, they just put it on their agenda and went ahead and approved it.”

Gilgour believes MAC’s move into Cape Girardeau County is going to be a game-changer for the community college that in recent years has seen a steep decline in enrollment and financial shortfalls that have resulted in the school dropping a number of its most popular offerings such as music, theater and agribusiness.

The community college, according to data annually compiled by Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development (MDHEWD), has seen a 49.2% drop in enrollment since 2014, eclipsing all other two- and four-year colleges and universities in Missouri in terms of loss in enrollment.

“This is a really big deal for MAC,” Gilgour said of the Cape College Center deal. “We get to expand and serve another community that’s really important to us. At every trustee’s board meeting I read the school’s mission, ‘Providing access to quality affordable education to the community,’ and Cape Girardeau is in our community. We actually have 17 counties in our community. This is a community that’s been wanting a community college for two decades and just hasn’t been able to get one.”

Gilgour explained that the college’s service region is comprised of school districts that touch 17 counties. Its taxing region involves school districts that primarily lie in two counties, Madison and St. Francois.

“They (Cape Girardeau community members) invited us to become a part of the community and be the community college provider. With the approval of the state this last week, we’re able to do that. So, it’s a big deal for us because it really expands our reach and allows us to keep offering more services to more areas — more access to education. It’s basically going to be an outreach site, just like our outreach sites in Perryville, Fredericktown and Potosi.”

According to Gilgour, until last week, MAC was one of a handful of community colleges in the state that did not have a four-year university campus in its service region.

“If you look at Moberly Area Community College — they’ve got a campus in Kirksville, next to Truman,” he said. “They’ve got a campus in Columbia with Mizzou — they work really close to Mizzou. There’s OTC in Springfield with Missouri State, and all of these colleges just work really well together.

“I’m anticipating we’re going to see a lot of students coming through that maybe didn’t know if they were quite ready for the university but want to try college so they can try with us and then we’ll help them get ready and be a little buffer between not going to college and the big university. We can be that middleman and help them get ready and help them travel on to the university.”

The spokesperson for the president of Southeast Missouri University, Dr. Carlos Vargas, said the university’s feelings on the subject had not changed and referred inquiries about the future of the center, which is located in a building owned by Cape Girardeau Public Schools, back to Gilgour. Dr. Wesley Payne, president of Three Rivers College, did not respond to attempts to contact him.

Gilgour thinks MAC will be providing a popular service for Cape Girardeau high school students.

“I could see a lot more students taking advantage of our associate of arts degree — that’s a transfer degree,” he said. “A lot of our students do that now. They transfer to all kinds of universities, but not having a home campus of a university in our service area means every student has to relocate to transfer. Now, students in Cape Girardeau go to school with us and then transfer right into the university, right there in town, if that’s what they choose to do.”

Gilgour stressed that no local tax dollars will be used to fund MAC’s Cape Girardeau campus.

“Our outreach sites are intended to be self-sufficient and so we don’t use local tax dollars for Potosi, Perryville, or now, Cape Girardeau,” he said. “We want to make that clear.”

Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-783-9667 or

>>> ad: See the Best Amazon Deals of TODAY! <<<<
Originally Appeared Here