Almost 46 years ago — April 5, 1967 —Missouri Southern took a giant step to becoming a four-year school.

That was the day the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities approved preliminary accreditation for the school as a baccalaureate institution. That allowed the school to offer a third-year level program in the fall of 1967 and a senior year of classes in the fall of 1968.

“It means that the work and hopes of so many people finally have been recognized and rewarded,” Fred G. Hughes, president of the college board of trustees-regents, said in the Joplin News Herald. “It means that for the first time the young people of our area will have the opportunity to get a full four-year college education right here at home.

“I feel so great I could fly, and I know many others join me in congratulating Dr. (Leon) Billingsly (college president), dean (Fred) Cinotto and their associates at the college. They were responsible for securing the accreditation. What a wonderful job they did.”

According to the News Herald, the accreditation climaxed a long fight by Jasper County residents for a four-year college.

In 1963 legislation was approved creating a branch of the University of Missouri in Joplin, but Gov. John Dalton vetoed the bill.

Another campaign launched later that year led to the expansion of Joplin Junior College to a county-wide basis in 1964 and introduction of legislation to create a senior college here.

Gov. Warren Hearnes pledged during his election campaign he would support the proposed college legislation and would not veto it if the bill passed both houses.

Hearnes kept his promise and in July 1965, he came to Joplin to sign a compromise bill that authorized establishment of a state-supported senior college to operate in conjunction with the existing junior college. Jasper County residents supported the two-year college while the state financed the senior college.

Tuition fees were based on level of education and place of residence.

The cost was $3 per credit hour for in-district students and $6 for out-of-district students in the first two years. The rate increased for the upper level to $6 for in-district and $10 out-of-district.

In addition, students paid $15 per semester for an activity fee, $10 per semester for student center fee and $15 per semester for book rental. However, half of the book rental was refunded when the books were returned.

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