By Monique Harrison

Daily Journal

Mississippi University for Women President Clyda Rent didn’t mince her words at Friday’s Industry-Education Day Luncheon.

“The standard-of-living gap between those who go to college and those who do not is still huge,” Rent told Tupelo and Lee County teachers and administrators gathered at the Ramada Inn Convention Center for the 20th annual Communinty Development Foundation event that is designed to foster partnerships between leaders in education and business. “In today’s world, it would be crazy not to go to college.”

And attending both undergraduate and graduate classes will soon be easier for local educators, who stand to benefit from the construction of a $10 million Advanced Education Center.

The center pools resources from the University of Mississippi, MUW and Itawamba Community College.

It will be located on the Tupelo campus of ICC and administered through Ole Miss. Mississippi University for Women will provide additional faculty and will also work with distance learning programs, which use fiber-optic technology to bring a lecture occurring on one campus to students sitting in a classroom at another.

Officials have not set a target completion date for the center.

The state Legislature appropriated $8 million for the project last year, with the remaining $2 million coming from private sources. About $1.9 million has been raised since last year.

A survey taken last year showed that education-related classes are in heavy demand in the Tupelo area, Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat said.

Other high-interest areas included math, science, English, business and health science classes.

There was also a big demand for non-degree education classes, including intensive staff development programs and other workshops designed to build teaching skills.

Several master’s degree programs – including a gifted education program – are also in the works, Rent said.

A number of steps will be taken to make it easier for nontraditonal students to attend the center.

Local businesses are being encouraged to provide scholarship money to qualified workers.

“The cost of a college education is a huge concern,” Khayat said. “Unless the money is available, many people won’t be able to attend.”

The possibility of opening an on-campus day-care center is also being considered, officials said.

A specific curriculum guide will also be written to help students plan ahead.

“After a student enrolls, they will know when they can expect to graduate,” Khayat said. “They will be able to look at a schedule and see what classes are offered during a semester well in advance.”

Tupelo and Lee County schools were closed Friday for Industry-Education Day. In addition to the noon luncheon, educators also attended morning sessions at their respective schools.

The sessions were led by local business leaders, who discussed what skills they would like to see potential employees learn in school.

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