There's no question Southeast Community College's Beatrice campus is growing.

Last year, the college broke ground and began construction on an $8-million residence hall. A new, $3-million dining hall is also on the way. Both are expected to be ready by next fall.

The campus's recent growth is evident, but before SCC made its mark in Beatrice, the campus was home to John J. Pershing College, named for the World War I general who led America's forces in Europe.

The private, liberal arts college was founded during a time of rapid growth for private colleges across the country.

"Historically, there were a number of private colleges back in that era," said SCC campus director Bob Morgan, "One of the reasons was young men could get a draft deferment (during the Vietnam War)."

Pershing College operated until 1971. It wasn't until roughly ten years later that school was operational again as Southeast Community College, which had acquired the campus in 1975.

The school's four original buildings were still in place when SCC took over, but since then, the school has been continually renovated, with the addition of the Truman Center, residence halls and renovation of older buildings for classroom use, according to Morgan. 

In 1971, the Nebraska Legislature passed a bill which created a statewide community college system, paving the way for school consolidation.

In 1981, the Milford campus moved its ag program to Beatrice, one of the first programs on the SCC campus and one of the few programs in the region to incorporate a working production farm.

Five years later, SCC merged its Fairbury and Beatrice campuses, closing the Fairbury location. 

From its early days as Pershing College, Morgan said the campus has seen enrollment grow.

From 2001-2003, Morgan said the college saw its highest point of enrollment. That dipped in 2004 when the school switched from a semester system to a quarter one.

Next August, an enrollment spike might return, as Southeast Community College will switch back to the semester system.

"We think going back to the semester system strengthens the connection to the K-12 world that's on our semesters," Morgan said.

The change in systems will coincide with the addition of the new dorms and dining hall, which Morgan said may lead to another growth spurt for the college.

"It's really exciting," he said. "We see it as a great opportunity."

SCC's Beatrice campus is continuing to make a name for itself decades after Pershing College was created.

"Everyone is excited," Morgan said. "...We want to be a strong community program. We really want to make sure that we are not only here for us but here for the community." 

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A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 28, 2018 edition of the Daily Sun. 

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