Community colleges want lawmakers to live up to the law - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Community college students fight to be a priority

To keep that possibility alive for students like Kelsey, Clark says it all comes down to funding, or in this case, the consistent lack of. To keep that possibility alive for students like Kelsey, Clark says it all comes down to funding, or in this case, the consistent lack of.
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

When Kelsey Chandler enrolled at Hinds Community College a couple of years ago, she says it was a decision she couldn't be happier about today.

"It helped me get out of my fears for going to college because going to college can be scary coming out of high school," said Chandler.

As a current sophomore, she's joining with other students, faculty and staff, highlighting the state's 15 community and junior colleges and their impact on the state's work force and future success.

"We teach about a quarter of a million people a year and we are the main entity that teaches job skills to folks in our state," said Eric Clark executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board.

Clark says more and more students are turning to community colleges for various reasons. For Chandler, it all came down to affordability.

"If I would have gone to a four year university, it wouldn't have been possible. I wouldn't have been able to go to college at all so going to community college made college possible for me," said Chandler.

To keep that possibility alive for students like Kelsey, Clark says it all comes down to funding, or in this case, the consistent lack of. During a rally at the capitol Thursday morning, Clark helped lead the charge asking lawmakers to live up to a law they passed. The Mid-Level Funding Act, passed back in 2007, grants community college funding at a mid-level between public schools and universities. Based on recent funding levels, that should put the community college funding at about $5,100 per student. The problem is, current funding is just more than half of that at about $2,700.

"We're asking as the legislature comes to a close in the next month, to make community colleges a priority and to make some progress on mid-level funding," said Clark.

Without it, Clark says salaries decrease and so do the number of classes offered despite demand. Senator Terry Burton told the group he'll work to do all he can to make sure they have what they need.

"Our continued economic success demands that we provide for you what we can from the state," said Burton.

Copyright 2012 MSNewsNow. All rights reserved.

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