Community college want Legislature to honor commitment

State funding per student

Current year

Public Kindergarten through 12 $4,601

Community college $3,877

Regional university $7,220

Amount needed per student to reach mid level $2,034

* SOURCE: State Board for Community Colleges and Junior Colleges

Community college want Legislature to honor commitment

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Community college officials have urged legislative leaders to follow the law they passed last year by phasing in “mid-level” funding for the two-year schools during a three-year period.

The community colleges insist they should be funded at a mid-level between what is provided to kindergarten-12th-grade students and what is provided to higher education students.

“The passage of the mid-level bill is the most historic legislation in relation to the community colleges of the past 10 years,” Wayne Stonecypher, executive director of the state Board for Community and Junior Colleges, told the 14-member Legislative Budget Committee on Thursday.

The commitment, he said, will have a long-term positive impact on the community colleges.

The Legislative Budget Committee, which includes Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and Speaker Billy McCoy, is hearing budget requests from state agency heads. The committee will develop a budget proposal later this year to be used as a blueprint for the full Legislature when it convenes in January.

To fulfill its commitment to the mid-level bill, the Legislature will need to appropriate another $60 million to the community colleges this year and next year. The key then, said David Cole, president of Fulton-based Itawamba Community College, will be to continue that commitment.

Cole pointed out that passage of legislation committing to a specific appropriation does not mean that commitment will always be met. He cited the Adequate Education Program as an example. The program set up in 1997 a formula to fund the basics of operating local school districts, but it has thus far only been fully funded in election years.

With that in mind, community college officials put on a full-court press Thursday, trying to impress legislative leaders with their ability to educate a lot of students at a relatively low cost.

According to information provided by community college officials, they are educating 65,712 undergraduate students – or 69 percent of all freshmen in the state. The community colleges also provide work force training for manufacturing plants and other types of continuing education for adults.

The community colleges also are asking for $16.5 million to provide jobs training for high school dropouts and $128 million for capital improvement needs on the campuses.

The community colleges received $198 million in state general funds during the 2007 legislative session.

Contact Daily Journal Jackson Bureau reporter Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.