August 25, 2009
Outreach locations let rural citizens learn close to home
Drury University sees more credit hours being taken at nine branches in region .
Didi Tang News-Leader
Had it not been for Drury University's branch campus near his rural home, Darrin Keeney of Licking may have never pursued a college education.
"I honestly think I would never go to college," said Keeney, 38, now two years from a bachelor's degree in elementary education.
Drury University, a private institution in Springfield, has a tradition of bringing college education closer to rural residents.
In addition to its flagship Springfield campus, Drury has campuses in smaller communities such as Ava, Cabool, Fort Leonard, Lebanon, St. Robert, Monett, Thayer, Licking and Rolla.
"It's better to send one teacher there to teach than have the students drive here to Springfield," said Dan Beach, interim dean of Drury's College of Graduate and Continuing Studies.
The communities served by Drury have responded warmly.
Its Cabool campus, for example, expects to have students enrolled in more than 3,500 credit hours this fall, up from 1,500 credit hours in 2005.
Universities charge tuition by credit hours. A course typically has three credit hours.
Drury's Ava campus also anticipates a big increase: Students there may take 4,000 to 4,500 credit hours this fall, up from 3,000 credit hours in 2005, Beach said.
The branch campuses typically have more students who are older than the traditional college students and they often must juggle school with work and family commitments, Beach said.
"The need (for college education) is always there, but the resources were not provided," Beach said.
What Drury is doing, Beach said, is making college education accessible to residents in those rural areas. State programs and grants also have helped.
Keeney, 38, who works in a NAPA auto parts store in Licking, said he was not interested in college after high school.
But the last few years in the "real world," as he described it, changed his perspective.
"With the economy as it is, without college education, you are basically going nowhere," Keeney said.
He made up his mind to get a college degree at age 35 and plans to teach elementary school in Licking.
"At that time, Drury had a branch in Licking, and if it were right here, I thought this was the opportunity of a lifetime," Keeney said. "If I was going back to school, I might as well start here."
Now, he has taken classes at both Licking and Cabool campuses and will decide if he will attend Drury's St. Robert campus or its flagship campus -- in Springfield -- to finish the last two years of his undergraduate program.
Once he gets his degree, Keeney said he will join his sisters and wife in becoming Drury graduates.
Read article at: