Community colleges advocate for more state funding

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - There's a growing concern among community colleges about funding. School leaders say they feel the system is overlooked, leading to hundreds advocating for a change in financial support from the state.

Source: Meridian Community College

College students, faculty, staff, administrators and other community college supporters flooded the state capitol last Wednesday to ask for continued funding, but to also highlight the needs to sustain success.

The problem, Meridian Community College President Dr. Thomas Huebner says, lies with how money is given to expand and grow in-state junior colleges. He says MCC, along with the 14 other community colleges, are taken for granted.

"To think that we have become happy with just level funding is something that's very problematic for us," said Huebner.

According to Jones College President Dr. Jesse Smith, for every state tax dollar invested in community colleges, Mississippi gets back $4.86, or a 386 percent net return. Dr. Huebner says that's an investment the state needs to capitalize.

"When we're thinking what it would look like without a community college system, well, I'll tell you. Far fewer people would have degrees. Far fewer people would be educated. We'd have to think of other ways to train people and to do some of things we take for granted right here in our community," said Huebner.

Huebner says community colleges are the best value for the taxpayers and individuals seeking an education.

"Mississippi often struggles with its recognition. People would say we're going to be at the bottom of the barrel in a lot of things but in the community college world we're not at the bottom. We're at the top," said Huebner.

Huebner wouldn't call last week's gathering at the capitol a success quite yet.

“And we’re just simply asking our legislators, our leaders, to invest in us, like we are investing in our students,” said Dr. Holly Crane, MCC Associate Degree Nursing instructor.

"Was it a success? Well, it was a good event. We'll know if it was a success if it generates the kind of support we truly need for us to take the next step," said Huebner.

Mississippi is ranked 4th in the nation in the percentage of students who transfer from community colleges to four-year universities, beating the national average by 8 percent.

From 2011 to 2017, the number of graduates earning a degree or certificate from a community college has increased by 18 percent.

Three billion dollars in sales and income tax is contributed to the state of Mississippi by each community college graduating class over the span of their lifetimes.