EDITORIAL: Tippah Tuition

Friday’s decision of the Tippah County Board of Supervisors agreeing in principle to a community college tuition guarantee program for all of the county’s high school graduates, beginning in 2010, enriches the opportunity for every qualifying student to achieve their dreams and goals of higher educational attainment. The board’s decision places Tippah in a lengthening list of counties and organizations participating in tuition guarantees for all academically qualified students: Lee, Monroe, Calhoun, Clay, Pontotoc and Union counties, and the Corinth City Schools. Private-sector funding includes special incentive programs from the CREATE Foundation, Gilmore Foundation, Pierce Foundation and The Peoples Bank of Ripley. Northeast, Itawamba, and East Mississippi community colleges are eligible recipients of tuition payments. Community college enrollments have been rising, and record enrollments are possible this fall across Mississippi because a community college presents itself as a more affordable and fully competitive choice for the first two years of post-high school education, plus community colleges are the engine driving advanced workforce and jobs training in our state. Many other states give the same kind of mission for their community colleges: Offer academic possibilities leading to a four-year baccalaureate degree, and provide solid jobs training. Community colleges, especially, paired with a tuition guarantees, become a powerfully attractive financial option compared to state-supported universities and even more in comparison with private colleges and universities. Community colleges also generally offer more flexibility for students who want or need to work while they attend college. Tuition guarantees help some of the students least likely to attend, but capable of attending college, to open the door and obtain what many business leaders and educators believe is the minimum requirement for advancing in the 21st century workplace. Among many other bodies of similar research, the Journal of Higher Education published data by researchers David G. Whitaker and Ernest T. Pascarella, showing “two-year colleges have played an important, positive role in enhancing the socioeconomic mobility of many individuals. This is particularly apparent when the occupational and economic attainments of two-year college students are contrasted with those of individuals whose education ends with secondary school.” Over the course of a student’s working life, the increase in earnings attributable to a community college education approaches $400,000, or higher, a Massachusetts study determined. The total might vary with the prevailing wage in different states and regions. As earnings increase, the payback to the community and state increases because spending power rises, taxes paid increase, and the basic return to the public treasury for programs like tuition guarantees completes the circle of investment.

NEMS Daily Journal