Mississippi House OKs Bill to Cover Tuition Gaps at Community Colleges

By Caralee J. Adams — February 21, 2014 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Mississippi state lawmaker Jerry Turner says that when he asks industry leaders what they need, without fail, they have the same response.

“The most important thing to them is an educated workforce,” the Republican representative said in a phone interview. “They aren’t so much focused on four-year college degrees, as much as technical training.”

To get more workers ready to fill high-tech jobs in Mississippi, Turner is proposing that the state cover tuition for recent high school graduates who don’t have enough money to attend one of the state’s 15 community colleges. The idea appears to have widespread, bipartisan support, based on the 115 to 4 vote earlier this month by the Mississippi House of Representatives in favor of his plan to establish a two-year pilot program that would fill the “gaps” in tuition not covered by other scholarships as well as state or federal financial aid.

The measure now goes over to the Senate for consideration.

To quality for the funding, students must maintain a 2.5 grade-point average and pass at least 15 credits per semester, under the bill as approved. The money would not cover books, fees, room and board or other education-related costs.

“I believe community college is our best tool in the box,” Turner says. “For the legislature to be as divided as we’ve been politically, this was almost a unanimous voice. Everybody recognizes the value of it.”

Questions Arise on Paying for Program

The measure is modeled after other tuition guarantee programs now in place at three Mississippi community colleges. Based on the response to those campuses, it is estimated by lawmakers that the new program would cost the state about $2.9 million the first year and $4.5 million the second year. Turner hopes the legislature can find a way to make it a priority and pay for it with existing funds and said he does not expect taxes would be raised to pay for it.

The Mississippi Community College Board helped draft the proposal and Kell Smith, the organization’s director of communications and legislative services, says members think the idea has great potential. Schools, however, hope if the bill is passed that funding comes from new money, rather than from existing appropriations. They are also eager to see how many students will actually take advantage of the offer, which would affect the bottom-line cost.

“We expect there to be enrollment increases, but there is no way to know how many [students] to expect,” Smith said in a phone interview. When tuition guarantee programs began on a few of the campuses, it attracted more students, but Smith said there wasn’t a “boom.”

In the heart of the recession in 2010, community college funding was cut four times mid-year, he added. Appropriations have since gone up, yet have not kept pace with enrollment. Still, Smith says the House bill has support.

“It gives access to higher education. It’s no longer enough to have just a high school education,” he said. “You have to have some postsecondary education... This will allow an opportunity for students to get a foot in the door.”

As the need for a more educated workforce increases, states are increasingly looking for ways to make college more affordable and create seamless pathways to higher education.

Mississippi’s consideration of expanding access to community college comes on the heels of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s announcement earlier this month that he would like to provide students with two free years of community college tuition. If enacted, the Tennessee Promise would be part of the state’s larger Drive to 55 campaign to expand the number of residents with college degrees to 55 percent by 2025.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP