Enrollment up at Mississippi Junior Colleges, More Funding Sought
Enrollment in Mississippi’s two-year colleges has grown more than twice as fast as in the universities in recent years, according to figures provided by higher education officials.
The trend, if it continues, means community colleges might soon top the universities in enrollment for the first time. It might have happened already if not for a probable dip in enrollment this year because of Hurricane Katrina. Final numbers for 2005-06 are not yet available.
Each system has just shy of 70,000 students enrolled.
In 2001, the U.S. Department of Education reported that 86 percent of community college students surveyed said they planned on going to a four-year school after obtaining an associate degree.
Wayne Stonecypher, executive director of the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges, said the low cost, easy access and smaller classes are the main reasons for community colleges‘ growth.
Ed Davis, a Mississippi State University professor who specializes in community college issues, said there are typically several types of students who choose a community college, though there is some overlap between the groups: those who plan on going to a university later; those who go because it’s closer to home; and those who are older, either for work force training or to learn a new skill.
Fees and full-time tuition at a community college are typically less than $2,000 a year. It runs more than $4,000 at state universities and tops $20,000 a year at Millsaps College, a private liberal arts institution in Jackson.
Figures from the junior colleges show student participation has nearly tripled in the past five years in GED programs or simply for work force training.
Stonecypher said he is pushing a three-year plan that would increase funding by $110 million, about a third of it for faculty salaries.
He said community colleges are supposed to be funded at the midpoint between K-12 schools and the universities but in fact are funded far below either one.
Figures from the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges shows state funding for K-12 at $4,049 per student; junior colleges, $2,751 per student; and the universities, $5,382 per student.
Stonecypher said without further funding, the community colleges may not be able to grow like they have been for much longer.
“We’re stretched about as far as we can go,” he said.
— Associated Press
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