Last updated: September 08. 2013 3:46PM - 144 Views

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WARRENSBURG — University of Central Missouri President Charles Ambrose celebrated the university’s growth in the face of dwindling state support and other challenges during remarks to reporters on Tuesday.

UCM is looking at a record enrollment for its freshman class, based partly on a focused refinement of the institution’s mission and a consolidation of degree programs that puts more resources into fields that show strong demand, both among students and a slew of partnerships with industry and private businesses the university has fostered since Ambrose took over as president in 2010.

“We are really fortunate to be off to a great year. We have weathered a lot of headwinds and we are very appreciative of not being where some other states and some other institutions are,” Ambrose said. “You want to celebrate and you want people to feel good about the shared sense of accomplishment, but at the same time, the contraction of resources isn’t over.”

Top among the changes that have helped the university attract new students and new partnerships with business is the UCM Innovation Campus program launched this spring with a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon. The program saw UCM join with the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District’s Summit Technology Academy — a pre-professional technical school that serves 11 school districts in the Kansas City area.

The university began enrolling students in the program this fall, which will allow them a three year fast track to their degree to help meet the needs of companies such as Sprint Nextel and Cerner.

The Innovation Campus model is now being developed statewide through an additional $10 million in grants.

“That Summit Tech Academy is really the x-factor. It is giving us access to multiple districts and multiple high schools to develop those partnerships,” Ambrose said.

UCM also joined forces with State Fair Community College this year in a program that will allow students to easily transfer credits back and forth between both institutions. That move follows a statewide change that makes transfer credits among Missouri institutions easier to help reduce costs and move students more quickly into their specific professional fields.

“This reverse transfer we have put in place with SFCC is huge … because it is the best means of rewarding every class you take and giving you credit for whatever credentials it fulfills,” Ambrose said.

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