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Community Colleges Call for More Funding

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 17 Feb 2011 01:07pm | comments
Two students hold a sign at the rally.

Students and faculty members from Mississippi's 15 community colleges are urging state lawmakers to increase funding for their schools. But as MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports, an early vote in the Senate keeps funding level from the current fiscal year.

Wearing black t-shirts and carrying signs, hundreds of community college students, faculty members, and alumni crowded the capitol rotunda.

Kyle Hill a Pearl River Community College professor says spending money on the Mississippi's 15 community colleges will help the state's economy recover.

"What we are doing is training people who have been laid off from jobs. Or training for new industries that come into Mississippi. We are training more affordable college students that can't afford to go to college any other way. So we are making an economic boost. And if you look at what statistics show us that Mississippi community college students spend in the economy, it is to the tune of 3-billion dollars over several years," Hill said.

Shortly after the rally, the Mississippi Senate voted to keep funding level with the current fiscal year.

Eric Clark, the executive director of the state community college board, says they would need an additional 22-hundred dollars per student to reach their funding goal.

"We know we are not going to get that. That would be tens of millions of dollars. But we do need consideration of that fact that our enrollment is up 31% over three years. Our enrollment was up, just last year, over 16% while our budget was cut more than 10%," Clark said.

State law passed in 2007 is designed to provide what is called mid-level funding, allowing community college funding falls between k-12 and universities in per student spending.

Michael Bittle is a student at Itawamba Community College in Tupelo. For him, community college was the most affordable path to a better future.

"I feel it was a great opportunity. It was a great decision. I can further my education making me more eligible for a better career, a better life," Bittle said.

Bittle worries that spending cuts will make it harder for students like him to improve their career opportunities.

Thursday's vote by the senate was part of the long process of designing the state budget....the house is also working on a plan but has not yet addressed community college spending.

 

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Two students hold a sign at the rally.


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