Appeal of Community Colleges Growing

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It's time to elect a homecoming queen at Meridian Community College, and Matt Williams is right in the middle of the action, helping people vote for the person of their choice.

Williams has immersed himself in activities at MCC since his enrollment. He has done it for virtually nothing, having both a music scholarship and guaranteed tuition grant for being a Lauderdale County resident.

"Might as well take advantage of it if you can," said Williams. "Why rush off if you can get a good education here at home?"

That's a decision more students in Mississippi seem to be making. Since 1999, enrollment at the state's two year colleges has grown by about 22 percent, while enrollment at the state's universities has grown only nine percent.

At that rate, two year enrollment could overtake university enrollment in a couple of years, and MCC officials say they believe price is one of the main reasons why.

"If you can stay at home and pay nothing if you get a grant or scholarship or the tuition guarantee, who wouldn't take us up on that?" asked MCC's Dianne Walton.

It was too good for Williams and his family to pass up. He says he'll probably go to Mississippi State when he gets done here, but in the meantime, he doesn't think he's missing anything.

"Teachers are really good with the students, and I feel like I'm getting a good education here," Williams said.

So, apparently, do a lot of other students in the state.