East Central College President Dr. Jon Bauer came to Warrenton last week to address questions about the desire for a community college in the area.
Bauer spoke during the Warrenton Board of Aldermen’s regular meeting Nov. 7. He explained that although Warrenton and Wright City aren’t subject to ECC’s tax levy, the cities are part of its extended service area.
“In the early 1990s, the community colleges got together and really cooperatively divided the state into service regions,” Bauer said. “If there was an area of the state that was not in a taxing district, that had a need that could be served by a community college, then ... a community college would serve the area.”
ECC’s service region covers most of 10 counties, including Warren County, he said.
In the past, ECC has offered educational programs in Warren County, some in partnership with Warren County R-III School District. Many of those programs were not continued due to low enrollment, Bauer said.
However, training programs offered in direct partnership with area manufacturers have done well, and Bauer said he could foresee a need for expanding skills training.
“Welding is one of the fields that we hear more about than anything else. There’s just a tremendous unmet need,” Bauer said.
Employers aren’t necessarily looking for a full technical degree, he added. Many simply want employees who have the fundamental skills for welding work, that companies can take in and train to their own methods.
Joining the District
The discussion of building a community college in Warren County picked up steam in October, when local leaders began to rally behind a plan to join the St. Charles Community College District and build a satellite campus. That campus would serve Warrenton and Wright City, while the Marthasville area remains in the ECC district.
Bauer last week said no matter if Warren County stays with ECC or joins SCC, voters will have to approve becoming part of a college’s taxing district and paying the tax levy.
ECC’s tax levy is 45 cents per $100 of property valuation, while SCC’s levy is about 20 cents lower, Bauer said.
In response to a question from aldermen, Bauer said one of the advantages of being within the ECC District is the community college’s close relationship with the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, where ECC has a satellite campus. ECC students often enroll at the two schools concurrently and transition from two years at ECC to a four-year degree at S&T, he said.
A vote to join either ECC’s or SCC’s taxing district would have to be initiated by a local school board or a citizen petition, Bauer said. That likely means Warrenton R-III School District and Wright City R-II School District will have to be on board with the process and introduce the move for voter approval.