October 5, 2010 10:47:00 AM
Mississippi''s community colleges look like a great deal, the more we look at the numbers.
Tuition at East Mississippi Community College, for example, is $975 per semester. But the state is paying an average of $3,349 per student.
That may sound cheap on one end, and rich on the other. But per-student spending at Mississippi''s 15 community colleges is at a 10-year low. And, tuition is up -- EMCC charged $800 per semester in 2008.
And, community colleges have taken a big hit, even compared to the state''s four-year institutions. More than half of all students in Mississippi''s higher education system are enrolled in community colleges, but the system only receives about a quarter of higher-education funding. Factoring all education dollars, community colleges get about 7 percent of the pie.
Community colleges are a cornerstone of Mississippi education, especially during this recession. Workers needing to re-educate themselves for different jobs have found themselves in community colleges. Community colleges provide the vocational and technical training needed for a modern work force, at industries including American Eurocopter and Stark Aerospace in Lowndes County''s own industrial park.
And, the system provides an economical stepping stone for local students who may not be ready to immerse themselves in a four-year school right away.
We hope local students remember what a resource they have in EMCC. In fact, thanks to a consortium of business and government, high-school graduates who maintain good grades can stay in EMCC tuition-free.
We applaud EMCC for remaining cheap, viable and essential to local education. Even amid the recession and rising costs, it''s hard to beat what the college has to offer.