Dr. Hal Higdon, left, president of Ozarks Community Technical College, visits with Don Romines, alderman; and Mayor Don Tottingham, right, following a public meeting Tuesday night in Houston. Voters of the Houston School District will decide Aug. 2 whether to join the OTC district, allowing for reduced tuition for students who attend at home or other OTC campuses in southwest Missouri.

Texas County has a great opportunity to improve its workforce, help with economic development efforts and provide educational advancement at home, the president of Ozarks Community Technical College told about 75-100 gathered Tuesday night in Houston.

Dr. Hal Higdon, president of the college, told those assembled that communities that invest in education are among the best of towns. He pledged new opportunities for Texas County students who often leave the area in search of education opportunities.

If voters approve an OTC ballot measure Aug. 2, he said residents would be able to take general education, technology, continuing education and workforce training classes, earn about a 30 percent discount off the normal tuition rate and be able to eliminate gas expense.

If the issue passes, a student would save about $30 per hour from the out-of-district rate. That’s roughly what a property owner with a $100,000 house would pay annually from the 15-cent levy on the ballot. Similar small taxes support the county health department, library and sheltered workshop.

Houston School District students would receive the lower rate effective with the fall semester. Over a two-year period, a student saves more than $2,000, and could go directly to Drury University at Cabool for another two years and complete a degree without ever leaving the county. Students who successfully complete the state’s A+ program during their high school education get their tuition paid during the first two years at OTC.

Campuses closest to Houston – Lebanon and Waynesville – are thriving, he said. Lebanon just occupied new quarters. Waynesville will break ground on a new 25,000 square foot near the high school and I-44, he said. In those communities, OTC provides training for employers and offers assistance to prospective industries that want the assurance that the workforce will be properly trained.

A recent study shows OTC – the fastest growing community college in the state – has a $121 million economic impact in Missouri. That number includes what OTC spends and what additional income is generated through its efforts.

The only criticism of the plan expressed at the meeting came from John Impey, a Houston gadfly, who has interjected himself into other educational matters over the years.



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