BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – A new alliance that has been in the creation for the past two years is setting a new bar for public/private partnerships in education.
On Tuesday, officials from Southeastern Community College and Iowa Wesleyan University unveiled the Southeast Iowa Higher Education Alliance.
According to SCC President Michael Ash, the Alliance will initially be made up of six board members; both school presidents, one board member from each institution and one nominated board member that could be from within the institution, or the community.
Ash has been appointed Chancellor of the alliance.
Iowa Wesleyan President Chris Plunkett said she envisions the alliance will ultimately grow to include associate business and industry representatives and even possible representation from area school districts.
“IWC has been working on a project to find a partnership for a couple years and for the last year we have been heavily engaged in conversations with SCC. It has turned into something so much more than our two institutions,” she said.
“It’s not only an opportunity to stabilize small institutions and strengthen them, but also to provide expanded opportunities for students and work with local workforce and business to expand opportunities for career growth.”
Ash said there will be a joint marketing effort to layout to students and parents as to what will be available through the alliance.
“It’s something we’ll begin, now that we have board approval from both boards, to establish that marketing plan,” he said.
Plunkett said the alliance will allow the individual institutions to function as a single campus. She said pricing will be very appealing for students to complete a four-year degree at a rate that is comparable to other public and private institutions.
She said the financial model has been in the process for many months. She Revenue sharing will be similar to sharing that is in place for smaller institutions doing recruiting.
“The transfer of revenue will depend on what revenues for each institution are. Southeastern is generously putting forward scholarship funds to students who make that transfer.”
She said IWU is putting funds toward the administrative budget for the non-profit alliance.
“The biggest piece for both institutions is the revenue we expect to see coming in through enrollment growth,” Plunkett said.
She said the landscape for higher education is changing rapidly, including an enrollment cliff that’s coming that projects declines in high school graduation numbers.
But adding in the recent economic trends especially following COVID, that landscape has changed permanently.
“For Iowa Wesleyan this is no longer about rescuing an institution that’s looking for strengthening enrollment, but starting that economic outlook,” Plunkett said.
She added that these types of collaborations are rare in the country, and consultants are using this model as an example across the country.
“Instead of losing your health center, or losing your university, you’re gaining stronger institutions that serve a broader region.
Ash said the alliance hasn’t gotten to the point of adding a bunch of new programs aimed at industry or business, but is focusing on creating opportunities for students to have additional choices.
“We haven’t got to the state where we say here are plethora of new programs, but our initial goal is to provide additional opportunities for students and be able to draw them in from our high school and our region.”
He said data shows there is a good percentage of students who graduate high school but then don’t pursue anything post-secondary.
“We’re missing some good folks, some good students, good employees as they choose not to go on to college.”