Tupelo debates tuition guarantee

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The City Council might consider a reduced college tuition plan, paying for two years of a public university instead of four.

But members failed to reach a consensus during their Tuesday afternoon work session on the matter.

The council met for an hour and a half at City Hall to discuss one of four strategies proposed in the Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment Plan. The plan aims to revitalize the city with a series of measures, including the college tuition guarantee.

Originally, the plan was designed to pay for four years of tuition to any public college or university in Mississippi for any Tupelo high school graduate. But some council members said it would detract from an existing program offered by Lee County that pays students’ tuition to Itawamba Community College.

Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell, who works at ICC, said the city should piggyback on the existing program, letting the county pay for community college and then picking up the tab on the final two years at a state university.

He said the city could go a step further: Pay the final two years of tuition even for students who opt to go immediately into a four-year institution. That plan, dubbed zero-plus-two, earned support from Mayor Jack Reed Jr., but was dismissed by Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington, who favored the full four-year deal.

City attorney Guy Mitchell said Newell’s participation in the discussion doesn’t constitute a conflict of interest because “there is no evidence other than speculation of any effect on ICC.”

Read the full story in Wednesday’s NEMS Daily Journal.