Community Colleges Seek to Pay Tuition for All Students

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Jackson, Miss. Community college leaders are pushing a plan to pay costs not covered by existing financial aid for recent high school graduates who enroll full-time.

The House Universities and Colleges Committee passed House Bill 424, sending it to the House Appropriations Committee. That committee must also act before the full House would consider the measure.

For a 75,000-student system, paying everyone's tuition might sound like a budget buster, but officials say it will cost less than $4.5 million a year.

Local governments and private donors are already running such plans in 20 of Mississippi's 82 counties. Such plans are in place for Meridian Community College, East Central Community College, and East Mississippi Community College.

Federal Pell Grants typically cover the average $2,400-a-year tuition, plus books, at the state's 15 community colleges for the poorest students. State grants contribute $500 a year for students with a 2.5 GPA.