The Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) hosted a legislative luncheon at the Downtown Jackson Marriott March 3 to thank legislators for educational funding and to ask for their continued support during the upcoming budget year. College presidents, administrators and faculty members joined their local legislators for the event.
Hundreds of attendees listened to speakers who shared a common message: The community and junior college system in Mississippi has a tremendously positive impact on the state’s economy and quality of life.
Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, a community college alumnus, believes community colleges are heading in the right direction. “I think our community colleges are the best investment, dollar for dollar, that you can make in the state of Mississippi. It will depend upon the leaders in this room if we want to attract another Sevecorp or Nissan,” he said.
Bryant affirmed that Mississippi will receive $2.3 billion from the stimulus package from Washington, D.C. “There is no doubt in my mind that there will be tremendous opportunity for community colleges here. We will work hard to provide community colleges with the opportunity to help this great state move forward. Thank you all for what you do for Mississippi,” he concluded.
Marilyn Young, Faculty Association president for MACJC, echoed positive remarks during her address. She referenced the monumental passing of mid-level funding two years ago by the state Legislature. “Staying the course is what we need to do. We have the right things in place with mid-level funding. Let’s keep our priorities where they are. Let’s keep pursuing those good things we hope to accomplish,” she said.
“Regardless of our economic state, one thing remains consistent. The 2,500 faculty members who work in your community and junior colleges rise and approach the classroom each day with devotion and dedication. They are proud to be the ones who impact someone’s life,” said Young, who is currently an instructor at East Mississippi Community College and is serving her second year as MACJC’s Faculty Association president.
Dr. Eric Clark, executive director for the State Board of Community and Junior Colleges (SBCJC), also spoke at the legislative event. He thanked the convened legislators for working to pull the state ahead in difficult economic times and reminded them of the important role the two-year colleges play in the vitality of the state’s economy.
“The community colleges are the best place and the fastest way to help Mississippi recover from the recession,” he told the group. His remarks included statistics on academics, workforce development and dropout recovery.
“Last year, more than 94,000 people took credit courses at a Mississippi community college that led them directly into the job market for higher-paying jobs. Nearly 158,000 people participated in workforce training from a community college to get them ready for work,” said Clark, adding that community colleges are also on the frontline of serving the 400,000 adult Mississippians who don’t have a high school diploma through the Dropout Recovery Initiative. (The community and junior colleges offer free adult basic education and GED preparation courses.)
“We are a tremendous value. We have a history of allowing ourselves to be divided by party, by race or by other means. We are in challenging times. I ask all of you to set aside your artificial differences to give our people the very best we can give so that we provide them with a better life,” Clark said.
Meridian Community College President Dr. Scott Elliot concluded the event with remarks about the direction of the economy and the newly approved stimulus package. “The buzzword across the nation is ‘stimulus.’ Our community and junior college system is your ongoing stimulus package. To me, we are the stimulus package that will give back to you year after year. We have students every day coming to us for services. They leave us one year or two years later well positioned to be successful,” he said. “The beauty of our stimulus plan is that we will not burden our communities with tremendous debt, but will create a positive economic impact on the communities we serve. As the oldest and one of the best community and junior college systems in our country, we will be here providing that stimulus year after year.”
The legislative luncheon comes off the heels of a successful Capitol Day event held last week, when the community and junior colleges were given the opportunity to illustrate their positive economic impact on the state and to share student and industry success stories.
The MACJC legislative luncheon is a planned event that showcases Mississippi Values, a statewide advocacy effort that aims to raise the level of awareness and impact of the community college system in the state.