06 Mar 2014

Capitol Day 2014


MDCC students and staff visit with legislators

Several Mississippi Delta Community College students traveled to the state capitol Tuesday to participate in Capitol Day, hosted by the Mississippi Faculty Association for Community and Junior Colleges.

The MDCC students were among the colleges' Student VOICES groups, a student-led advocacy that encourages students to be civically engaged. Ultimately, the goal of Student VOICES is to produce a desire for students to understand, be involved, and support the political process of lawmaking.

While in Jackson, the MDCC students met with Delta-area legislators and toured the Capitol. Topping student concerns is the cost of a college education.
In remarks to students, faculty and other supporters of the 15 community colleges gathered at the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday, key legislators voiced support for the colleges and their efforts to achieve mid-level funding.

Rep. Nolan Mettetal, R-Sardis, chairman of the House Universities and Colleges Committee and Appropriations Committee, is a graduate of Northwest Community College in Senatobia. "Thank you so much for training and educating almost a quarter of a million students annually. It's amazing how you have established yourself as the greatest value in higher education in Mississippi. It's also quite fascinating that the fact that 64 percent of all freshmen are enrolled in a community college. Pretty remarkable," he said.

In 2007, legislators promised to fund the colleges at the mid-level point - 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 the legislation was passed. It will take $86.6 million to make it halfway to the mid-level target.

With 64 percent of all freshmen as their students, Mississippi's 15 community colleges play a key role in our state's higher education system that leads to a more educated populace and a trained workforce.

"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 Sen. John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, chairman of the Senate Universities and Colleges Committee.

"Middle skill jobs, which require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor's degree, make up the largest segment of jobs in the current economy. Community colleges are the pivotal link in preparing a competitive workforce in Mississippi," said Dr. Clyde Muse, president of Hinds Community College and legislative chair for the 15-college system.

Johnny Allen, vice president of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges and president of Northeast Community College, said the money is there this year for the legislators to appropriate money toward mid-level funding.

"We want to make sure we have the means to support our students with quality faculty not only today but in the future, to provide access to quality higher education through the lowest possible tuition costs and the means to employ modern technology to make sure we have the tools to do the teaching job," Allen said. "We believe that the means are there. We are calling on the members of the Legislature to make sure we preserve one of the most outstanding aspects of public education."

The community colleges enroll more than 75,000 students, including 54 percent of all undergraduates and nearly half of all students taking a credit course. "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.

The 15-college system serves nearly 250,000 Mississippians each year in university transfer, career/technical, workforce and adult education programs.