WESSON, MISS– Mississippi’s Community and Junior College system was recently named best in the nation by WalletHub.com, but it didn’t come easy for the 15 institutions.
Every shift in the economy, no matter how big or small, means big changes for a community college. For example, the economic downturn starting in 2008 mean funding cuts for many agencies across the country, including community colleges. But with job loss and funding changes, community colleges were in higher demand because of their high quality education at a discount price.
“When enrollment went up,” says Dr. Jane Hulon, Vice President of Instructional Services at Copiah Community College, “we were seeing budgets decreasing. So it was a perfect storm for community colleges, because were being asked to do more but receiving less.”
Hulon says that the growth was great for the college, but with the lack of funding, they were unable to make additions in the staff needed in order to accommodate for the spike in enrollment. So they added adjunct professors and online courses to ease the demand.
But as the economy continues to improve, Hulon says they’re faced with a different problem. Community colleges are being skipped for the four year universities because more money is available. That means some money isn’t coming into the community college system, so as teachers retire or move elsewhere, funding isn’t available to replace them.
“So if we can’t fill an open position,” says Hulon, “that position becomes frozen. It is common to see that.”
However, Mississippi’s community college system still remains at the top of the national charts, due to quality of education and affordability.
“Of course, we always thought we were number one,” adds Hulon, “but now that it is on paper, maybe the legislature can see that.”
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