Community Colleges Lobby at Capitol

Community Colleges Lobby at Capitol

When it comes to the budget, officials with Mississippi's 15 community colleges say they've trimmed all the fat.

"We're afraid that as we get more and more cuts we're eventually going to have to get into the meat and our faculty, our staff, those people who serve the students, that is the meat of our community college system," said Paul Miller of East Mississippi Community College's Golden Triangle campus. "We're going to do everything we can not to do that."

Since the year 2000, funding for Mississippi's community colleges has dropped by 17 percent while funding for systems such as corrections, mental health and debt services has more than doubled over the last decade. School officials say it isn't fair.

"Every $1.00 spent toward education, five cents goes towards community colleges. I think our students are worth a lot more than that," said Lacey Johnson, the president of Meridian Community College's Faculty Association.

Representatives from all of the state's community colleges gathered in Jackson to lobby lawmakers for more money, and if that's not possible, at least not to cut the budgets anymore.

As for the requests, local representatives say the support is there.

"I think that the only thing keeping them from sanctioning the additional budgetary money coming in is that the money is just not available," said Rep. Charles Young of Meridian.

"I can see some fees being raised," said Sen. Videt Carmichael, who represents District 33, "some other mechanisms being put in place that would raise more dollars."

As for raising taxes as a whole, Carmichael says for now that's unlikely. However, with more than a month left in the regular session, he says this is not impossible.