USM Ruling Gets Mixed Reaction
Since the battle over USM's expansion began, many hurdles have stood in the way. Opposition has come from both Mississippi's community colleges and other universities.
The State College Board governs USM and Mississippi's other public universities. Not everyone on the board has seen eye to eye on letting USM Gulf Park grow, saying it could spread the limited education budget too thin.
"I'm not surprised the Supreme Court ruled like they ruled," board member Roy Klumb said. "I'm disappointed we're moving in the direction that we are, because we have limited resources. We're not going to maximize the opportunities for the people of the Gulf Coast."
The expansion was blocked by a lawsuit from the governing board of Mississippi's junior colleges. They feared that if USM Gulf Park began admitting freshman, it could hurt attendance at junior and community colleges.
Although many community colleges in Mississippi opposed a four-year curriculum at the Gulf Park Campus, the president of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College says its board of trustees was not a part of this lawsuit. He says now is the time for educators to work together.
"What today's decision means, it's time to move forward," Dr. Willis Lott said. "It's time for the institutions of higher learning on the Coast to work together to provide the training and education needs of the citizens of the Coast."
The court decision was welcome news to U.S. Sen. Trent Lott. He agrees with the move and says a four-year school is needed on the Coast.
"I have always been for that, and I know some of my friends would not agree, but we have a large population on the Coast, and I think for us to have access to a full university, a four-year program makes good sense," Sen. Lott said.