Building a Better Education
Despite restrictions on physical space and limited financial resources, the MACC Hannibal Area Higher Education Center (MACC-Hannibal) has grown to a campus serving over 300 students, earning more than 5,000 credit hours. MACC-Hannibal opened in the wing of a former hospital and is now located to its current home in a renovated call center. While the “new” space is an improvement for students and faculty alike, the current building has poor visibility, inadequate parking and limited classroom space. Fortunately, these challenging conditions have not discouraged students from attending MACC-Hannibal as our campus has experienced continued growth.
For over fifteen years, the citizen group for Affordable Community Education (ACE) is helping to expand community college classes in our area. Our goal of a permanent community college campus in our area is coming to fruition. The new campus will be open in December of 2013 and will offer a two-year degree programs, general studies, state-of-the-art technical training as well as lifelong learning opportunities.
According to Missouri state law, MACC is the authorized community college to serve our region, which includes sixteen counties of northeast and central Missouri. Working closely with MACC, our Board identified a strong need for improved community college access in seven northeast Missouri counties including Marion, Ralls, Pike, Monroe, Lewis, Clark, and Shelby. Our volunteer board is made up of members from numerous communities within these counties.
Before MACC-Hannibal opened, “A+” students were forced to travel at least an hour away to utilize their benefits under the program. Prior to the existence of MACC-Hannibal, only 15 out of 85 eligible students were able to take advantage of the “A+” program. While MACC-Hannibal’s modest facilities have increased opportunity for eligible students, we now have more A+ qualified students in the pipeline than we have ever had before.
Local employers need an educated workforce and they have had difficulty in hiring prepared and trained employees. High school graduates are not workforce ready. MACC works closely with industry to make sure its students receive an education that will prepare them for future employment in the region.
The identified counties have significant parts of the population living at or below the poverty level making higher education impossible. Students who may not qualify for the “A+” program still have the ability to earn credits and degrees at a much lower cost to avoid burdensome student debt. Because courses are taught locally, students may live at home and avoid costly travel. Courses are designed to make students ready for employment.
Without the opportunities from cost-effective, local community college education, students leave this area for their education and look for employment opportunity elsewhere. We have to stop this brain drain to keep our area competitive in a modern economy and improve our quality of life.
Our board, in cooperation with MACC, has identified a need for a campus with approximately 18,000 sq. ft. The facility will consist of classroom space, computer labs, science labs, a resource center, student common area, faculty offices, meeting rooms, a bookstore, resource center and parking.
In 2000, Dr. Chris Bieniek and Dr. Curtis Burton of Midwest Orthopedics donated six acres of land near Hannibal’s medical complex. Thanks to their generosity and leadership, the board has locally raised over $1.4 million. MACC had demonstrated its commitment to the project and this community by committing $1 million. Additionally, MACC has obtained $1.4 million in federal funds (FEMA) in support of the project. Also, Ralls County Rural Electric Cooperative (REC) has secured financing in the form of a zero-interest, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rural development loan in the amount of $1.36 million. This financing allowed us to break ground on the new facility in November 2012.
Today, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Construction has begun on the facility and more students will benefit from more educational opportunities. This project has been financed entirely by generous local donors, from state and federal funds and from the support of MACC. Local taxes do not support this project in contrast to many other communities.
As we near the end of our journey, we have identified the final fundraising sum to complete our goal. We must raise $1.36 million, which will be used to pay back the USDA financing and to fully equip the campus. Many opportunities for naming rights are still available for supporters to leave a lasting legacy for our community. Please make your pledge or donation today.