Armed with a recent ranking as the top community college system in the nation, leaders of Mississippi’s 15 community colleges told the Legislative Budget Committee that for every dollar invested in community colleges by Mississippi taxpayers the payback is that dollar, plus an additional $3.86.
“If community colleges were a company, would you recommend to Warren Buffett that he buy it? The answer, of course, is yes.” said Dr. Jesse Smith, president of Jones County Junior College and chair of the 15-member Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges.
The National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (nSPARC), based at Mississippi State University, analyzed data through the Mississippi LifeTracks statewide integrated data system that includes the community colleges, eight universities and other state agencies.
The nSPARC report, titled “What is the Value of Community Colleges to Mississippi Taxpayers?” showed the state reaps $4.86 in return to Mississippi taxpayers for every state dollar spent supporting community colleges. In August, Wallet Hub, a financial analyst company for small business and consumers, gave Mississippi’s community colleges the top ranking for cost, classroom experience and education/career outcomes.
The community colleges serve nearly 250,000 Mississippians, including 74,168 college students, 90,000 workforce trainees and more than 17,000 Adult Education students.
At the hearing, Sen. Terry Burton of Newton, (R-District 31), said, “You remain the single best bang for every educational dollar the state spends.”
The community colleges are asking for an $82.7 million increase in state funding for FY 2017. Of that request, $64.5 million is directed to mid-level funding (MLF), which was unanimously passed by the 2007 Legislature and brings per student support at a midpoint between per student spending for K-12 and regional public universities. The Legislature needs to increase per student funding at community colleges by $2,062 to achieve MLF.
The remainder of the request includes $8 million for Repair and Renovation for facility improvements and $10.1 million to help fund MI-BEST, Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training.
The MI-BEST model bridges the skills gap for higher wage jobs, while equipping high school dropouts with job-ready credentials. Students in the program are concurrently enrolled in Adult Education and Career Pathway programs. MI-BEST also provides a safety net of support services to help adult learners earn employer-recognized credentials.
According to Mississippi Works, Gov. Phil Bryant’s workforce program, there are 35,000 unfilled jobs in the state. In Mississippi only 55 percent of working-age adults are employed.
“Mississippi Delta Community College is committed to improving the quality of the workforce in our district in order to retain and attract business and industry,” said MDCC President Larry Nabors. “However, this requires adequate funding for workforce training.”
Community college leaders also expressed concern about rising tuition costs. Nine of 15 colleges increased tuition in 2015. The average tuition and fees are $2,576 now, which is a 4 percent increase over 2014. Dr. Nabors stated “MDCC did not raise tuition in 2015, but we may be forced to in the future if we do not obtain additional state funding.”
In FY 2016, student tuition and fees accounted for 32 percent of revenues for the colleges, compared to 18 percent in FY 2000. With broad missions, the 15 two-year colleges say they manage lean budgets to make the path to degrees and certificates more cost-efficient, for both students and the state.
“Our community colleges are at a crossroads to maintain the quality and scope of services that earned us a first place recognition nationally. We must have sufficient resources and support from the Legislature to equip our citizens with the education and skills that provide family sustaining wages,” said Deborah J. Gilbert, interim executive director, Mississippi Community College Board.
This funding bolsters faculty resources at the two-year colleges, where 69 percent of the budget is spent on salaries. The legislative request includes a commitment to raise community college instructor salaries to a competitive level between the average university faculty salary and the K-12 public school teacher salary. Community college faculty salaries are currently $6,984 below that mid-point target. It will take about $45 million to reach the mid-point salary target. The colleges are asking for half of that amount in FY 2017.
The colleges also requested $37.5 million per year for a two-year bond bill commitment, similar to the bond commitment made to the university system. “The community colleges maintain 31.9 percent of all square footage dedicated to public higher education in the state, but only receive 23.5 percent of bond funds allocated to higher education,” said Dr. Mary Graham, president of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. “Our system is more than 100 years old, and many of us are maintaining facilities that were original to our campuses,” she added.
President Nabors stated that “MDCC has many facility needs, including much needed new construction as well as renovations on existing buildings. There is a lot of deferred maintenance on our campus due to the lack of sufficient bond funds.”
While acknowledging increased state support for the past four years, Dr. Clyde Muse, president of Hinds Community College, told the committee, “It is our responsibility to let you know what our needs are.”
In 2000, state funds accounted for 55 percent of the community college E&G budget. In FY 2016, state support stands at 41 percent.
The Mississippi Association for Community and Junior Colleges funding requests are endorsed by the Mississippi Community College Board, as well as the statewide trustee, alumni and faculty organizations that represent the 15 public two-year colleges.
Thomas Cole of Sunflower, Miss., was selected by his co-workers as Mississippi Delta Community College’s Staff Member of the Month for September. Thomas serves MDCC as a maintenance technician and groundskeeper on the main campus in Moorhead, Miss.
“The most enjoyable part of my job at MDCC is staying busy and working with great people,” says Cole. An MDCC employee for 11 years, his daily responsibilities include maintaining a clean, neat and well- kept campus area.
Ceremony to be held at the Greenville Higher Education Center
Mississippi Delta Community College (MDCC) and Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) will hold a signing ceremony Wed., Sept. 30, at 11 a.m. for a new articulation agreement between the institutions. The ceremony will be held in the Hafter Room on the Greenville Higher Education Center (GHEC) Campus located at 2900A Highway 1 South in Greenville, Miss.
“This agreement provides new opportunities for students in the Greenville area,” says Dr. Charlie Barnett, MDCC executive vice president. “By leveraging our resources, we are able to offer enhanced opportunities to students at the GHEC while also eliminating barriers to success such as transportation.”
The agreement is designed to provide for a seamless transfer from MDCC to MVSU for students enrolled at the Greenville Higher Education Center.
Students will benefit from increased course offerings, allowing for the completion of both an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree without leaving the GHEC campus.
“MVSU prides itself on the ability to provide an accessible education to all students,” said Dr. Jerryl Briggs, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “We are committed to fostering partnerships around the globe to offer boundless opportunities. Our partnership with MDCC proves our commitment to this accessibility.”
The Mississippi Delta Community College’s Library digitized the complete run of the College’s yearbooks, Retrospect, from the first volume in 1925 through 2015.
Volumes were scanned cover-to-cover in full color. Online visitors can page through volumes, search the full text, download PDFs and view them on Kindles.
Also available digitally are volumes of college newspapers known as The Sunflower Petals. For each issue of Retrospect, optical character recognition was applied to make every word on every page fully searchable.
Kristy Bariola, MDCC’s Director of Library Services, led the digitization process. “We are very excited to be able to provide this resource,” stated Bariola. “Collections unique to Mississippi Delta Community are now available to the public via digital access.”
Funding for this project was provided by the MDCC Alumni & Foundation, Inc. “Alumni and friends of Sunflower Junior College, Mississippi Delta Junior College and Mississippi Delta Community College can now browse online to learn of friends, family members and the college’s history through this valuable resource,” stated Foundation Executive Director Reed Abraham.
You can also find the link on the MDCC website in the Library section (Quick Links) under Digital Yearbooks and Newspapers.
Now accepting applications for 2015-2016
The Robert W. Steinriede Faculty & Staff Development Fund seeks to provide faculty and staff with financial resources for projects, professional development, equipment, and other areas that support the educational mission of the college. All faculty and staff (full time & part time) are eligible to apply. The deadline for proposals is Monday, November 2, 2015 at 5pm.
The Mississippi Delta Community College Board of Trustees recently honored member Katherine Tankson of Rolling Fork for 15 years of service. Tankson was also honored at the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College's annual meeting in July.
The Mississippi Delta Community College Board of Trustees is composed of six members from Sunflower County and two members each from Bolivar, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Sharkey and Washington Counties. One member from each county is the County Superintendent of Education (in counties where this position exists as prescribed by state law) and the other members are appointed for five-year terms by their County Boards of Supervisors.