Community college feasibility study in progress

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Scott Sattler, director of the Perry County Economic Development Authority, is one of six local members on a steering committee gathering information on a potential community college for Perry and Cape counties.In total, there are 18 individuals on the committee — six from Perry County, plus six from Jackson and six representing the Cape Girardeau area.
“The premise of this is providing technical education opportunity for our youth and our work force and our future employers that are going to be in the southeast (Missouri) area,” Sattler said.
Sattler has periodically provided updates to the Perryville Board of Aldermen as well as the Perry County District No. 32 Board of Education on the committee’s work. Earlier this month, he informed the aldermen that the needs assessment is underway.
Community college does have a presence in Perry County. However, the committee is looking into whether or not there is a greater need for future growth, according to Sattler.
“We have Ranken (Technical College) here but there’s not a lot of technical education in the southeast region that can use Fast Track,” Sattler said.
The Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant is a statewide program through the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development that targets individuals who are 25 and older who have not been enrolled in a school in the past two years. It’s a financial aid assistance program for adults.
Technical areas highlighted by Sattler include welding, diesel mechanic, auto mechanic and information technology, though it isn’t limited to just these areas of expertise.
Specialization of skills can help employers such as TG, Gilster Mary Lee as well as trucking companies, Sattler said.
“Everybody is needing those skill sets,” Sattler said.
Mineral Area College maintains a local office. However, Perry County is not in the taxing district.
“They provide services over here but our students have to pay out of district tuition,” Sattler said. This equates to $40 to $60 more per credit hour, according to Sattler.
There are 12 community college taxing districts in Missouri. The last one, Ozarks Technical Community College, was formed in 1990.
“In order to create a 13th community college district, you have to go through a process,” Sattler said.
Those involved in the initiative include representatives from the Cape, Jackson and Perry County (District 32) school districts.
Additional examples of places to get technical skills training also include State Tech, in Linn, Mo.
“The first thing you do is the letter of intent to the department of higher education,” Sattler said. This process was completed last fall. “At that point, it just tells them you’re interested in looking at that.” The next phase is the feasibility study and the results of the study likely won’t be released until later this spring.
“In those three school districts, is it needed?” Sattler said. “Do our employees need it? Is there a workforce shortage? Is there a skillset training shortage?”
The feasibility study is costing nearly $100,000. A company from Sentinel, Colo. was hired to complete the needs assessment.
“Once that comes back, then it’s decided whether or not to move forward, if there is a need, or look at other options, that’s the phase we’re in right now.”
The city of Perryville and Perry County have both contributed $10,000 toward funding the study. Sattler said that’s because the city and county have about 20 percent of the students that could be part of the district
If the measure goes to the ballot, it would charge residents 10 cents per $100,000 of assessed value. The earliest the measure could get on the ballot is April 2022.
The MAC taxing district is now at 48 cents per $100,000. If the Perry County region would be a part of MAC, it would have to start at the existing tax rate, Sattler said.
Regardless of the study’s eventual findings, Sattler believes it is beneficial and information.
“This needs assessment is still valuable for Perry County because we have Ranken and MAC and we can see what the needs are,” Sattler said.

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