Community Colleges to Lobby

By: Chris Brennaman
By: Chris Brennaman

Preparing Mississippi's budget is the largest task of the year for lawmakers with dozens of appropriations bills that must be approved, and pretty much every agency is asking for more money than lawmakers are actually willing to give them, putting both sides in a difficult position.

One of the groups that says it has been getting the short end of late is the state's two-year colleges. They've had their budgets cut every year for the last several. They say they're tired of it.

College officials say the money they receive each year is not enough, primarily because of increased enrollment. Officials say the lack of increased funding has affected students as well as faculty. Class sizes are getting bigger.

But the area where community colleges have been affected the most is in faculty salaries. In fact, some instructors make less than k-12 teachers, and that's something that they want to change.

"We'd like a salary raise, of course. We're hoping to get to midpoint. We realize we're going to have to do that in small steps, but we'd like to see some of that progress this year," said Tanya Boler, president of the faculty association at East Central Community College.

Next Thursday, representatives from each of the state's two-year schools plan to do something about it. They will be lobbying legislators for more money.

Meridian Community College will not only be taking members of its faculty association, but also 125 nursing students.

The state's 16 two year schools have grown significantly in the last six years. Since 2000, they've seen a 26 percent increase in enrollment, but over that same period of time their funding has been cut by about 20 percent.

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