Mississippi’s community colleges seek legislative support at Capitol Day
Written By: Teresa McCreery
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date Submitted: 2014-03-05 11:48:13
JACKSON – The Capitol Rotunda was filled with state legislators and community college students, faculty and administrators demonstrating the value of the two-year college system in Mississippi at its annual “Capitol Day.” The 15 community/junior college’s Faculty Associations joined college presidents, students, alumni and trustees in asking legislators to support more funding for community colleges. Since Fiscal Year 2000, community college enrollment has grown 44.7 percent while state support per student has declined by 16.8 percent. Jones County Junior College’s enrollment has grown almost seven percent over the last two semesters.
Rep. Nolan Mettetal, R-Sardis, chairman of the House Universities and Colleges Committee and Appropriations Committee, is proud of the accomplishments community colleges have made over 100 years in Mississippi.
“I’m one who supports Mid-Level Funding. It certainly will allow you the opportunity to provide a greater opportunity for our citizens. It’s amazing how you have established yourself as the greatest value in higher education,” said Mettetal.
Despite the two-year college systems’ achievements, equal financial support from the state is still needed.
“Mid-Level Funding is a means to keep tuition affordable, to recruit and retain quality faculty, and prepare more students for work. It is also simple fairness,” said Dr. Eric Clark, executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board.
College presidents were successful in 2007 when legislators promised to fund the colleges at the Mid-Level point, or per-student funding, halfway between K-12 education and the regional public universities, but the community colleges are only getting 52 percent of the promised funds. The colleges are seeking to regain the ground they lost since legislation was passed. Chairman of the Senate Universities and Colleges Committee, R-Hattiesburg Senator, John Polk didn’t make any promises but he is happy with the impact community colleges have on the state.
“We have a diverse student body in the community college system and that’s what it’s all about, and that’s what it takes to make Mississippi prosper,” said Polk.
Mid-Level Funding mandates per-student funding for community colleges that is midway between per-student funding for K-12 students and regional public university students. Using data from FY 2012, the regional public universities were funded at $6,125 per student and public schools were funded at $4,828 per student. Accordingly, community colleges should have been funded at $5, 476 per student, but instead received only $3,075 per student.
“With 64 percent of all freshmen attending a community/junior college, we play a key role in our state’s higher education system, by preparing and providing a trained, skilled workforce. We need the resources to support our students with quality faculty and ensure everyone has access to a higher education with the lowest possible tuition costs,” said Dr. Jesse Smith, president of Jones County Junior College.
Dr. Smith added, “Employers in today’s job market are looking for people with more than a high school diploma but they don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree. Our students deserve the same support the Legislators provide for each segment of education.”