After an eventful year, The University Center of Southern Oklahoma is gearing up for fall once again.
Most classes are now held in the center’s new building located on Mt. Washington Road and students are still enrolling last minute for fall semester. Interim UCSO President Peggy Maher, who replaced former president Steve Mills, said she’s looking forward to her first full semester at the center.
“It’s so exciting when the students come back and the parking lot’s full again,” Maher said. “The lobby is full of people signing up and finding classes. There’s a lot going on.”
Murray State College started on Monday and Southeastern University starts August 20. Students can still enroll this week and they can drop next week. East Central University, who pulled out of the university center officially this summer, still has a handful of students at UCSO and will continue to offer them online and traditional classes.
“For some financial aid they need to have sections here,” Maher said. “The ECU nursing program agreed to graduate the class that’s already enrolled, so they’ll graduate in spring.”
Langston University, whose nursing program will replace ECU’s if all goes according to plan, is still gaining approval for their proposal by the state nursing board. Langston’s other nursing locations are accredited, but the school needs to apply for every location separately.
Enrollment for Murray State College courses is down 10 percent compared to last year, but the number may change as last-minute enrollments roll in.
“There are lots of reasons for that,” Maher said. “When unemployment is low, enrollment goes down.”
Maher said many of the center’s students are also working full-time while attending school. Rising tuition costs are likely effecting students’ decisions as well.
She said this fall the university center will administer a large-scale community needs assessment survey to help them find out what programs might be a good fit for the area. The last survey was held in 2007. The survey will also collect data about preferred class schedules and times.
“That will help us talk to our partners about bringing in those degree programs and it might help to get other partners for programs ours don’t teach that our community seems to really need,” Maher said.
The survey will address current students, high school students, active members of the community like leaders and businesses owners and the general public.
“Those are all those people out there we want to enroll,” Maher said. “We tend to have more people who are returning students, or who are working full-time and attending school. We have more nontraditional students, so they’re harder to reach.”
Over the summer, university center staff held community events to draw more students in. UCSO’s Education Opportunity Center offers advising, essentially functioning as a guidance counselor anyone can visit to ask questions.
“They’ll help them explore options,” Maher said. “They’re a great place to start.”
Maher said the survey will cover more than just Carter County. She said the plan is to reach out to anyone who might attend the university center.
“Part of our role is to kind of curate college programs,” Maher said. “Let’s not just bring in random things, let’s bring in things that work here. With that in mind, and feedback from the community, I think we can really grow.”