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Chancellor Hal Higdon
Chancellor Hal Higdon

Knights Finalist: Ozarks Technical Community College

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Ozarks Technical Community College has undergone drastic changes since it called classes into session in 1991.

During its initial fall semester, 1,198 students were enrolled, and 20 years later, that number has exploded to 13,907 students in the fall of 2010.

“It’s amazing when you look at what the enrollment was at OTC in 1991, and where it is in fall of 2010,” said Joel Doepker, director of communications and marketing for OTC. “It’s astronomical growth. You will find that at very few community colleges in the country.”

Formed in 1990, OTC has learned in the last two decades that its presence in the communities it serves creates mutually beneficial relationships.

In addition to its Springfield campus, where an expansion is under way at the Information Commons West Building, OTC operates a Richwood Valley campus in Christian County and three educational extension centers in Branson, Lebanon and Waynesville.

“When we talk to local industry leaders about the impact of OTC on their businesses, we see that we need them as much as they need us,” Doepker says. “We are the community’s college and we’re proud of that.”

Growth at community colleges — especially in the last three or four years, has been a national trend, perhaps one of the few positives to come from the recession.

“Obviously, we’ve had a downturn, in the last several years, in the economy,” Doepker says. “And cyclically, we know when there’s a recession, people go back to school, and people go to community colleges.”

Doepker said OTC’s leaders understand the school’s role in training the work force, collaborating with employers to meet their needs.

“All of our programs have local businesses meet with them frequently throughout the year,” Doepker says. “We want to get a better understanding of the types of training we need to be providing for our students.”

OTC’s role in the southwest Missouri economy reaches well beyond work-force training, however. Using data from the 2008—09 school year, a study commissioned by the OTC Board of Directors found that the college contributes nearly $212 million to the local economy. That study, conducted by Moscow, Ind.-based Economic Specialists Inc., broke down that impact to $168.6 million in alumni income, $31.6 million in operations and $11.6 million in local expenditures by students who live outside OTC’s service area.

Beyond those economic components, OTC also provides local jobs, with more than 2,000 full- and part-time employees, up from just 128 in 1991. The college posted 2010 revenues of $69.9 million, and estimates 2011 revenues of $73.2 million.

OTC’s growth hasn’t come without a few hurdles, as Doepker says the school has been forced to artificially cap enrollment at the Springfield campus in recent years due to space limitations.

He notes that the Information Commons West expansion will help address the problem.

“We’re adding 10 classrooms, which should hold 20 students every other hour. That has the capacity for 2,000 students,” he adds. That project is funded in part by a $15,000 donation from the BKD Foundation.

OTC’s growth isn’t limited to Springfield, as demolition began in June at the former Crockey’s restaurant on Highway 165 in Hollister. OTC purchased 8.25 acres between highways 65 and 165, including the former restaurant, and the city of Hollister donated an additional, contiguous .83 acres so that the school has 9.08 acres for the development of its Table Rock campus. Construction is expected to start later this year, with plans for the new campus to open by fall 2013.

From the 2011 Economic Impact Awards publication
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