Malden Mayor says news of college campus closings devastates small town

Thursday, February 1, 2018

On Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, the City of Malden learned both Southeast Missouri State University and Three Rivers Community Colleges were discontinuing offering courses at their Malden campuses, announcing the two institutions will shift their efforts to align with current trends in student learning.

Malden Mayor Denton Kooyman was in meetings with both college Presidents Monday, but after months of meeting with them, hoping for another option, learned the fate of his City’s college campuses.

According to a press release from SEMO and Three Rivers, Southeast President Carlos Vargas and Three Rivers President Wesley Payne cited budgetary needs, declining enrollments and a decrease in demand for face-to-face and interactive television (ITV) course offerings at their Malden facilities for their decision to cease coursework there, with an effective end date coming with the end of the Spring 2018 semester.

“Losing both colleges is devastating,” said Kooyman. “We have been working with the presidents of both SEMO and TRCC for the last four months, holding several meetings and hoping they would combine again and work together.”

Kooyman said some people thought one campus would shut down but thought the City of Malden would at least keep one campus.

“I was shocked to hear that they would both simultaneously pull out of Malden,” said Kooyman. I know that a lot of good people fought hard to make the SEMO campus become a reality in Malden.”

According to the schools presidents, the two institutions will shift their delivery to online offerings, while also encouraging Malden area students to continue their coursework at nearby locations.

Kooyman said he believes the splitting of SEMO and TRCC several years back started the down fall.

“I know student numbers have gone down but opening multiple campuses all around our area and offering other things which weren’t being offered at Malden has drawn some students away and stopped students from coming to the Malden campuses,” Kooyman said. “I know students will do what they have to to get their education but some don’t have that ability and we do have some students who take public transportation, walk or their parents drop them off here locally because they don’t have vehicles and driving that extra 30 minutes distance could hurt them from continuing their education.”

Kooyman said, “For some there are online classes and other options but not everybody learns the same way. He went on to add, “Some students still need that hands-on help.”

Although the colleges report a decline in student headcount, Mayor Kooyman said there is a bigger picture here.

“Not every household has computers or Internet available for them,” Mayor Kooyman said. “Yes, I think this is devastating for our city, but it’s more devastating to our students who are the one’s who are truly losing out.”

Kooyman said both colleges are going to have programs to help students find the best option for them moving to other locations.

“It is my understanding that SEMO will keep its rice lab open and its new greenhouse and still support the Bootheel Youth Museum by using the portion of the building that they’re in,” said Kooyman. “January 29, 2018 at noon was a sad time for the City Of Malden.”

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