No more 'junior colleges' in Missouri

Wes Franklin

In 1976, Jim Tatum testified before a Missouri legislative committee in a bid to persuade state lawmakers to officially drop the handle “junior college” from two-year schools in the state, which included Crowder College, where he served on the board of trustees.

The change never came to pass.

But more than 30 years later, Tatum’s efforts finally saw fruition when Gov. Matt Blunt visited Crowder on Tuesday to sign into law a bill substituting the term “junior college” with “community college” in Missouri’s Revised Statutes. 

State Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, sponsored the legislation. 

“Our community colleges really are a vital part of our education system,” Blunt told a roomful of Crowder staff, community supporters and state lawmakers. “And in many ways, because of the entrepreneurial focus and entrepreneurial attitude, they really do deliver some bang for their buck for the taxpayers of Missouri.”

Blunt praised community colleges for “leading the way” in tying educational institutions to economic development and called them “great partners in workforce development” by meeting the needs of skilled industry. He also noted that community colleges were a great way for people to begin their higher education. 

“To say the least, there is nothing ‘junior’ about our great community colleges,” Blunt stated.

Shouting out some home-district patronage, Wilson called Crowder “the best community college in the State of Missouri” and gave credit to community colleges in general.

“Our community colleges are not ‘junior’ to anyone,” Wilson said. “They’re a full-fledged partner in the educational system of the State of Missouri. And this bill, although it’s very simple, recognizes the fact that community colleges play such a vital role throughout the State of Missouri. Without community colleges, we would not have the technical training that we have today and we would not be poised like we are for jobs.”

Wilson also described himself as simply the instrument by which to try and give community colleges their due respect and said that Tatum, long-serving chairman of Crowder’s board of trustees, was the real force behind the action — an action Tatum started more than three decades ago.

Tatum publicly thanked the Missouri General Assembly, several members of which were present, for adopting Wilson’s bill, and the governor for signing it into law.

“This is a proud moment — not only for Crowder, but for all of the colleges in this state to be now called ‘community colleges,’” Tatum said. “This is the institution where people really exist and the institution that serves the needs of the people. We are so very proud of our vision and mission statement, and that is simply to offer quality education, as well as create a civil, serving, literate, learning community of responsible citizens. And that’s in the very fiber of everyone in here and in this institution I hope forever.”

Neosho Daily News