As Howard Payne University phases out its continuing education program, a Brownwood man wants to gauge residents’ interest in keeping such opportunities available.

Eric Morrow, a doctoral student at the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University and Brownwood businessman, is preparing a letter he will send to community leaders and others who have had an interest in the HPU program asking for input.

“I’ve lived in other areas of Texas and the nation where they’ve had strong community education programs,” Morrow said. “I’ve seen this work in other ways in different places.”

Morrow said refashioning a continuing education program could allow it to add more components “to meet the needs of people in various ways.” However, Morrow said, any such new program will necessarily have to begin small. But he hopes a meeting can be arranged for interested residents soon so existing momentum can be sustained and some of the more popular classes can meet in the fall.

“We need to be open to possibilities,” Morrow said. “We’re trying to determine whether there is enough interest out there to come together and say, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Morrow, who is also adjunct faculty at Howard Payne where he has taught courses in Islam and philosophy, said he has consulted with HPU President Dr. Lanny Hall; HPU Dean Dr. Rob Tucker, under whose supervision the continuing education program has been operating; and Pat Locks, continuing education coordinator. Howard Payne will discontinue its program on July 31, after the Summer Scholars and other young persons’ enrichment programs conclude.

“One of the needs we all have at any stage in life is knowledge,” Morrow said. “Whether it is a job skill or a hobby, we are at our best as human beings and citizens when we continue to learn.”

Morrow said a strong, broad-based community education program could enhance the quality of life and appeal of the community. The current situation provides, Morrow said, “a unique opportunity to plan and implement a program that not only continues the quality of previous programs, but it is also a chance to address needs in many areas.” Those include job skills, hobbies, computer skills, certifications, health and sports, languages and business.

“A lot of groups are already doing some of these things and doing them well,” Morrow said, mentioning short-term skills classes available at Texas State Technical College-West Texas and business workshops offered through the Early Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Incubator.

“This program could provide more flexibility and promotion for what they’re doing,” Morrow said. “It would be good to get talking before school has been out too long so we can have something for this fall.” Those classes could possibly include some of the more popular sessions from Howard Payne’s curriculum, like sign language, Spanish and photography.

“There will always be the issue of facilities,” Morrow said, “but if we can get other people behind that, this will be addressed. The goal right now is to see who is interested.”

Such a program, that could possibly become affiliated with a nonprofit organization or other institution, could have a funding advantage because it would be able to seek grant awards, in addition to relying on student fees.

Morrow said he plans to send letters out to community leaders, business officials and others who have previously shown an interest in continuing education within a few days. Meanwhile, interested persons can e-mail Morrow at ericmorrow@verizon.net.

“We all share the desire to make our communities even better,” Morrow said. “If there is interest and support, we can certainly develop a community education program that will enhance the lives of many.”