Mississippi’s Community Colleges Want More Tech Investments

The state’s 15 community and junior colleges are asking for an $18 million investment in education technology, including IT infrastructure. Overall, the schools have requested $77.5 million in funding for the fiscal year.

by Cristina Carreon, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal / February 27, 2019

(TNS) — Community and junior college representatives will hold a press conference today at the State Capitol to make a legislative request outlining the financial needs of the 15 community colleges in Mississippi.

Included in the request will be a need of financial support for college workforce and economic development training programs, the implementation of new career and technical programs, as well as investment in education technology and the provision of reasonable and informed funding.

Jay Allen, president of Itawamba Community College, said the annual Mississippi Community and Junior College Capitol Day event is an opportunity for the state's community colleges to have a unified voice in their mission to effectively educate Mississippi students.

The community college system's funding request for fiscal year 2020 is $77,595,345.

"Which includes three priorities: reasonable and informed funding, workforce and economic development support and education technology investment," Allen said.

Allen said the first priority, reasonable and informed funding, is a $34 million request to support a cost-sharing model for K-12 and community and junior colleges that would provide support funding for dual credit high school students enrolled in community college courses.

Allen said this portion of the request includes a $9 million discretionary fund to be used for the individual needs of the colleges, as well as $25 million to invest in community college employee sustainability.

"And $51,837,287 is needed to reach the mid-point salaries calculation, which is halfway between K-12 and universities," Allen said.

The second priority in the request is for workforce training and economic development support, and this portion of the request is for $24,788,500.

To allow community colleges to invest in new career and technical programs, colleges are asking for $5,200,000. To invest in replacing existing equipment in career and technical programs, colleges are asking for $9,256,000.

For the community college dropout recovery program MI-BEST Career Pathways, the estimated cost to educate one student is $3,795. Colleges are asking for supplemental financial support to grow this program.

"These students are trained to earn a workforce credential while also earning their high school equivalent," Allen said.

This portion of the request is for funding enhancements to the $6 million W.K. Kellogg Foundation three-year MI-BEST grant, and to reach 25 percent of high school dropouts in Mississippi.

The third priority is for investment in education technology at $18,806,845, which would go toward improving and maintaining colleges' technology infrastructure.

"This investment in standard security upgrades is required to guard student information against cyber threats and increase student access to higher education through technology infrastructure," Allen said.

"With Mississippi's community colleges providing a $4.86 return on investment, we continue to make a positive difference within our state and beyond," Allen said.

Northeast Mississippi Community College President Ricky Ford said he hopes the meeting will bring the attention of the state legislature to the role community colleges play in the educational process and in economic development.

“In order to expand and make the State of Mississippi continue to move forward, more funds need to be invested into a proven agency such as the Mississippi community colleges," Ford said.

“We are doing a lot presently, but could do more with adequate funding and support.”

©2019 the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, Miss.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.