Texas colleges, universities – innovative, collaborative for benefit of students, taxpayers
At Midwestern State University (MSU), it’s not a matter of “If you build it, they will come.” Rather, MSU officials have adopted an “If they can’t come to us, we’ll go to them” strategy. They are going where the students are.
The Wichita Falls-based university recently unveiled a bold and unique partnership that offers an innovative plan designed to benefit working adults and place-bound students. MSU has partnered with North Central Texas College (NCTC), a Gainesville community college, and the two will jointly occupy a new education facility that is currently under construction.
It is not all that unusual for community colleges and four-year universities to partner in providing students a path to a bachelor’s degree. Nor is it unusual for community colleges to occupy satellite facilities in neighboring communities to serve students who can’t travel to the main campus.
But, this pioneering collaborative initiative includes the actual sharing of a newly constructed facility. A private developer will build a 30,000-square-foot, two-story building to MSU specifications. The facility will then be leased to MSU, which will sublease part of the facility to NCTC, with MSU paying two-thirds of the lease cost and NCTC paying one-third. The lease agreement will include a purchase option for MSU after either five or 10 years.
Keith Lamb, an MSU vice president, said that sharing faculty and several services with the community college will allow students to have an easy transition from the community college to the four-year university. And, he explained that MSU had wanted to expand into the Dallas-Fort Worth area, so the partnership was well timed. NCTC officials were also dealing with a need for more space, so the shared facility worked out well for both institutions.
Many of the initial offerings will be health sciences-related courses. Beginning this fall, MSU will offer junior- and senior-level courses in radiologic sciences and respiratory care, nursing courses and graduate education classes. In the future, the university plans to have business offerings, including MBA classes.
As the partnership develops and grows, an online adult completion program will be offered for .students with workforce education, vocational-technical training and professional experience in occupational fields.
Classes will include interactive television, online and hybrid courses of various types. Other course delivery options will evolve as the program progresses.
The shared facility will house two science laboratories, a combination laboratory and lecture classroom, three interactive television classrooms, two seminar classrooms and tutoring and study space. There will be administrative and faculty offices, a bookstore, coffee/snack bar and a conference room that will be available for community use.
Lamb said MSU officials believe the partnership with NCTC, and another partnership approved last year with Weatherford College, both align with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s 60X30TX higher education strategic plan – particularly the plan’s goal to reduce student debt. He said that students in their first two years at a community college are likely to save as much as $10,000 before continuing at the four-year university to complete a degree.
Midwestern State University’s innovative approach to increasing education opportunities for students while helping to lower costs could set the standard for similar programs statewide.