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Title changes solidify OTC system status

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Ozarks Technical Community College will name a new president for its Richwood Valley campus, and the college’s president will become a chancellor in July – a move that may help the institution secure funding increases.

OTC President Hal Higdon said the college has been operating as a system school since Richwood Valley opened its doors in January 2007 as an accredited comprehensive campus. However, with the start of the 2012 fiscal year, the school is officially recognizing its status with changes in title on a couple of key positions, including Higdon’s.

“We just decided to not do anything with the titles until the college had grown and come into its own, which it has done,” Higdon said, adding that vice presidents at OTC will become vice chancellors starting in July. “We’ve gone from 9,000 students to 14,000 students in five years, and this is just a reflection of that growth.”

The system designation comes from the Higher Learning Commission, which accredits colleges and universities such as Drury and Missouri State. Systems are defined as those schools that have more that one comprehensive campus, and the organization has designated OTC’s Richwood Valley and Springfield campuses as comprehensive. Under the designation, campuses serve the full range of student needs and include libraries, student support services and financial aid, whereas extension centers are smaller, more focused teaching sites.

Other Missouri designated community college systems include Metropolitan Community College of Kansas City and St. Louis Community College.

Higdon said OTC should be considered by state legislators who determine its funding on the same footing as those schools.

Metropolitan Community College of Kansas City serves roughly 18,000 students on five campuses, while St. Louis Community College has 28,000 students across four campuses and three education centers, according to the schools.

OTC operates the Springfield and Richwood Valley campuses and three educational extension centers in Branson, Lebanon and Waynesville. More than 13,600 students were enrolled in the OTC system for the spring 2011 semester while Richwood Valley had 1,141 students enrolled this spring, a 16 percent increase from spring 2010.

Higdon believes the system structure – formalized by the new administrative titles – could mean more funding for the school.

“We are fighting for our spot. We are now the third-largest school in the state and the fastest-growing school in the state,” Higdon said. “This will allow us to fight on a level playing field for our place in state funding.”

Higdon said the school expects its state funding in fiscal 2012 to be cut by between roughly 5 percent and 7 percent. The school received $10.7 million in state funding this fiscal year and $11.3 million in fiscal 2010. OTC receives about $1,100 in state funds per full-time student, the least among the Missouri Community College Association’s 12-member system, which advocates for funding for community colleges in the state. The average among MCCA members is about $2,000 per full-time student.

Not everyone, however, feels the system designation is a call for more funding. Board of trustees Chairman J. Howard Fisk diminishes the funding factor.

“We service people from Waynesville to Branson,” Fisk said. “We are obviously not a small school in a small area. This is just a more accurate depiction of how we currently function and who we are within the state.”

Fisk said the school’s fiscal 2012 budget has yet to be set. The Missouri Senate passed a 2012 education budget April 20, calling for 4.8 percent cuts to higher education. Higdon said the school’s overall budget should be about $62 million.

OTC founding board member Jackie McKinsey hopes the designation would lead to additional funding for the school, and while the plans for the Richwood Valley campus were a reaction to the school’s growth, the fact that it was designated a comprehensive campus from the beginning was a “twinkling in the eye” of planners aware of ever-present funding needs.

Higdon said the new organizational chart was presented to OTC’s board last month. He said the changes in titles would not mean a pay increase for him or the vice chancellors. However, he said Richwood Valley would lose its dean position and the new president, who has yet to be chosen, would be paid commensurate with someone in that position.
He said that this was a revenue-neutral move due to some retirements within the system.

“I’ll be chancellor over both the campuses and the centers,” Higdon said. “The president of the Richwood Valley campus will report to me. We will not have a president in Springfield because I’m going to fill both roles.”

Higdon said the Branson center will soon be moved to Hollister and may become the system’s third campus by 2013. OTC purchased two plots of land for $1.4 million in Hollister in October.[[In-content Ad]]

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