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March 9, 2017
The Missouri Academy of Science, Mathematics and Computing – a two-year accelerated, early-entrance-to-college residential program for academically-talented students on the campus of Northwest Missouri State University – will end its operations at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 academic year, the University has announced.
The decision to close the Missouri Academy is based on several factors, University leaders said, as Northwest enhances the focus on its core mission of providing students with opportunities to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
“This decision was not easily made,” Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski said. “The closure of the Missouri Academy is not due to any single reason and especially not due to the quality of the faculty, staff and students associated with it. Rather, the closure is the result of a number of factors and interaction of factors that make the Missouri Academy no longer financially viable for a regional, comprehensive teaching institution such as Northwest.”
Among the reasons cited by the University are a shifting financial landscape that is straining resources at higher education institutions and has led Northwest to reprioritize and reallocate resources to meet its mission critical priorities.
The University acknowledged the Missouri Academy has been yielding a net loss for Northwest, despite efforts since 2012 to curb expenses and reverse declining enrollments. With domestic enrollment for the Academy continuing to decline, Northwest no longer has the capacity to absorb the financial net loss. Furthermore, Northwest has been unable to garner appropriate state and other sources of support for the program and cannot appropriately invest in Missouri Academy facilities or fund its operations at needed levels.
The University also pointed to changes in the education landscape since it opened the Missouri Academy in 2000. A proliferation of schooling alternatives for high-performing students have become popular in recent years. Northwest’s limited capacity to sustain scholarship support and financial assistance for Missouri Academy students also has contributed to declining enrollments.
The Missouri Academy saw its enrollment peak at 178 students during the 2008-2009 school year. Through its first 15 cohorts, concluding with the 2015-2016 academic year, the Missouri Academy enrolled 1,042 students, and 801 of those students completed the two-year program successfully – a graduation rate of 77 percent.
The Missouri Academy’s current enrollment is 106 students, who come from throughout Missouri as well as South Korea, China and Panama. Forty-eight students are in their second year of the program and are expected to graduate in the spring. Following Missouri Department of Higher Education policies, the Missouri Academy will maintain operations to serve its remaining students through their expected completion in spring 2018. The Missouri Academy is no longer accepting students to enroll.
In regard to Missouri Academy staffing, 12 positions are allocated to the program. Three already are vacant and three more are being eliminated this spring.
“Northwest Missouri State University and the Missouri Academy are committed to ensuring that the Class of 2017 and the Class of 2018 successfully complete their studies with minimum disruption,” Dr. Cleo Samudzi, the dean of the Missouri Academy, said.
Missouri Academy students are integrated with Northwest’s traditional students and any number of faculty have contact with Missouri Academy students during the course of their academic work.
“Northwest students will be impacted in that they will no longer be able to interact and learn from this diverse group of high-performing high school students,” Jasinski said. “Missouri Academy students also have provided our faculty with enhanced teaching experiences. Some faculty will be impacted through research projects and grants that have previously involved Missouri Academy students. The Missouri Academy has served a purpose at Northwest, and we are selectively choosing to let go of the past.”
Despite the Missouri Academy’s closing, University leaders said Northwest will continue to enhance its already strong undergraduate and graduate STEM programming. More students enroll in biology than any other discipline at Northwest, and the School of Agricultural Sciences graduates the largest number of students; the School of Computer Science and Information Systems is the largest producer of graduate degrees and it added a graduate degree in information systems last fall. Northwest also plans to remain active with numerous STEM programs and affiliations, including a Northwest P-6 STEM initiative called “Project Lead the Way,” offered at the University’s Horace Mann Laboratory School, that is a collaborative effort with Missouri Project Lead the Way and the Regional Professional Development Center.
Northwest is moving its School of Agricultural Sciences to the Dean L. Hubbard Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and transitioning that facility into a more integrated sciences facility. The University also is securing funding for upgrades at the R.T. Wright Farm, including a recent grant award from the Missouri Agricultural Foundation, and for a planned Agricultural Learning Center that will assist with developing plant scientists, food scientists and precision agriculture specialists, among other workforce needs.
“To some, closing the Missouri Academy will seem counter-intuitive, but Northwest is filling the void,” Northwest Provost Dr. Timothy Mottet said. “We are building for the future in alignment with our strategic plan and prioritizing our objectives to ensure Northwest is a vibrant university for years to come.”
Launched on the Northwest campus in 2000, the Missouri Academy was designed for students with career aspirations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
From its beginning, Missouri Academy students have attended classes with Northwest’s traditional students, and professors have held the same expectations for Academy students as they do for undergraduates.
At the conclusion of their two year-program, graduates of the Missouri Academy receive an Associate of Science degree and a high school diploma, simultaneously.
“Much of what we envisioned in the very beginning has exceeded what we thought would happen in terms of the success of our students and the impact on Northwest Missouri State University,” said Samudzi, who was involved in the creation of the Missouri Academy and became its dean in 2004.
The idea for the Missouri Academy was born during the early 1990s out of former Northwest President Dr. Dean Hubbard’s vision of an academic program designed to challenge and stimulate the best and brightest students of Missouri. Its planners envisioned a school where motivated high school juniors and seniors could receive advanced preparation for futures in STEM fields.
Between 1990 and 1995, Hubbard garnered support for the Missouri Academy from the commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the commissioner of the Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE) and members of the Missouri legislature. State funding helped Northwest establish the Missouri Academy, and it opened its doors in August 2000 to 41 bright high school juniors from Missouri.
Each cohort to come through the Missouri Academy’s doors received a unique name, and the Missouri Academy celebrated its first graduating class, the Pathfinders, in the spring of 2002. Beginning in 2007, the Missouri Academy began accepting students from outside Missouri and abroad.
Since its inception, the Missouri Academy has been extremely successful and is one of only eight publicly funded, residential early-entrance-to-college programs in the United States; it is the only program of its kind in Missouri. Graduates have gone on to complete their bachelor’s degrees and further their education at an array of institutions throughout the country including Duke, Harvard, Stanford and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Missouri Academy alumni work in career fields such as architecture, chemistry, computer science, education, engineering, environmental biology, law and physics.
For more information about the Missouri Academy, visit www.nwmissouri.edu/masmc/.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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