Off-Site Delivery of Associate Degrees in Southeast Missouri
Coordinating Board for Higher Education
June 29, 2010


Both Three Rivers Community College (TRCC) and Southeast Missouri State University had previously submitted independent proposals to offer Associate of Arts (AA) degrees in Kennett, Malden, and Sikeston. The intent of this board item is to provide an update on the status of these requests.


A review of education attainment rates in Missouri shows a distinct need for increased educational opportunities in the Southeast region of the state. Historically, the communities of Kennett, Sikeston, and Malden have been served by both Southeast Missouri State University, which runs outreach centers, and by Three Rivers Community College, which has off-site locations based on these communities being within their voluntary service regions.

The posting of proposals for the same degrees offered by different public institutions resulted in extensive interest and debate throughout the academic community and among elected officials. In working with the institutions to avoid unnecessary duplication and conflict among institutions from different public educational sectors, official requests were made to withdraw the proposals to provide Three Rivers and Southeast an opportunity to work more collaboratively as they have been able to do concerning delivery of lower division certificates and degree programs in Cape Girardeau.

As a result of continued work, a new proposal for delivery of associate of arts degrees in Kennett, Malden, and Sikeston has been submitted by Three Rivers, which includes a cooperative agreement for reverse transfer with Southeast Missouri State University (see attachment). Both Three Rivers and Southeast have signed agreements supporting this approach. A new posting was placed on the MDHE website on June 25, 2010 (since this was a follow up to a previous posting), and will undergo the formal review process used for all new programs submitted to the MDHE. The official 20-day comment period will end on July 23, 2010, after which time the programs may be acted upon by the Commissioner of Higher Education.

Cooperative Agreement

The TRCC proposal describes unemployment rates, poverty rates, educational attainment, and current and projected student demand for lower division coursework and degrees in the region. The proposal also identifies TRCC’s primary partner for students transferring from the college – Southeast Missouri State University (27% of all transfers in 2008-2009).

In order to meet the needs of all students in the region, Southeast and TRCC have signed an addendum to the Associate of Arts degree program proposal. This agreement provides present and future students at Southeast’s regional campuses in Kennett, Malden, and Sikeston the opportunity to complete the AA degree by using the process of reverse transfer of credits. Operationally, hours completed at Southeast will be transferred back to Three Rivers so students may be awarded an AA degree. While students must complete some of their hours at Three Rivers, they may take the minimum number at any point rather than having to complete all Three Rivers hours first. The concept of reverse transfer is growing in popularity in many states as a strategy to increase the number of citizens with formal degrees at the associate degree level.

Specifically, the joint agreement for reverse transfer has several provisions, including:

  • Southeast students may seek admission and transfer up to 52 credit hours to TRCC towards completion of the AA degree.
  • Students must complete a minimum of 12 credit hours at TRCC that meet the requirements of the AA degree as outlined in the TRCC catalog.
  • Students seeking the AA degree must take Southeast courses that articulate with the TRCC 42 credit hour General Education program, two credit hours of Lifetime Wellness, and 18-20 credit hours of electives selected with the help of a Southeast Regional Campus or TRCC advisor.
  • Institutions will utilize existing individual consortium agreements regarding state financial aid as needed when students are taking courses at both institutions.
  • TRCC will share class schedules with Southeast Regional Campus Advisors.
  • Promotion of the program will be jointly planned and implemented in a manner that is supportive of both institutions.

In forming this agreement, both institutions expressed concerns about what should occur if either party did not fulfill its obligations and could not reach agreement on the consequences for such actions. It was suggested and agreed to by both institutions that the proposal be approved only as a three-year pilot program with obligations by the institutions to track data on success and make annual reports to the Commissioner of Higher Education. After three years, the CBHE would again review the program and decide whether to maintain approval for these degrees.

Tentative Recommendation and Next Steps

TRCC and Southeast have worked diligently to fulfill their commitments to stakeholders not only to meet citizens’ needs through increased educational offerings in southeast Missouri but also to meet those needs as efficiently as possible and with the highest quality that our system of higher education is able to provide. Potential conflict and unnecessary duplication has been avoided by identifying an innovative solution for cooperation between Southeast and Three Rivers in these communities that both institutions have historically shared.

An approval for a three-year pilot will allow these programs to begin quickly, thereby addressing critical needs in these communities while also acknowledging that discussions about institutional missions including selectivity categories, institutional relationships, and educational delivery systems promoting increased collaboration will be a focus of attention by CBHE in the immediate future.

The comment period for these programs extends into the new fiscal year and formal action will be completed by a different commissioner of higher education no sooner than July 24, 2010. This board item serves as a recommendation to the new commissioner that approval for the three-year pilot be granted and that review and approval by the CBHE be accomplished as soon after the close of the official comment period as possible.


Sections 173.005, 173.005, 173.030, and 173.030 RSMo


This is a discussion item only


Proposal for AA degrees in Kennett, Sikeston, and Malden with Cooperative Agreement on Reverse Transfer