Alcorn plans expansion to Vicksburg

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 15, 2000

Alcorn State University wants to expand into Vicksburg and school officials are in the planning stages, ASU President Clinton Bristow Jr. said Thursday.

President for three years, Bristow made the comment during a talk to the Vicksburg Rotary Club Thursday. Alcorn’s main campus is in Lorman, about an hour’s drive south of Vicksburg.

“It’s no secret we want to expand into Vicksburg,” Bristow said, adding the move into the city would be part of the expansion plans the school is making as a result of the Ayers lawsuit that was filed 25 years ago in an effort to gain parity for Mississippi’s three mostly black universities with the five that are traditionally white.

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Alcorn currently operates a branch in Natchez that houses a nursing school and master of business administration program. That facility employs about 100 people and has about 300 students. Because many of the Natchez students are white, the extension campus is helping bring Alcorn into “desegregated” status decreed in Ayers by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bristow said the Vicksburg proposal, as presented to the ASU governing board, would include a facility to house expansions of Alcorn’s computer science program, its teacher education programs and its hospitality courses. A fourth program, for physician assistants, would be new to Alcorn.

“Those are four programs that are specifically designated for Vicksburg and Warren County,” Bristow said.

He said the decision of where to put the facility, if construction is required, has not been made. Also undecided is when action on the plans will take place.

The timetable will depend on a number of things, including how quickly they can get the programs operating, particularly the physician assistants’ program. The other programs are already operating and will only need expansion. Another factor is how soon the Mississippi Legislature will give Alcorn money to begin planning.

Closed-door negotiations have been under way between Ayers plaintiffs and state officials. Programs valued at $400 million have been offered by the state and rejected by the plaintiffs, including U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, as too little. Thompson has said about $800 million will be needed to bring Alcorn, Jackson State University and Mississippi Valley State University into line with the other five.

“We think we have a good chance of getting those programs,” Bristow said. “We had them studied by consultants and the consultants have approved and recommended them to the governing board.”

Although he is confident the College Board will approve of the expansion, he would not make any predictions of the outcome.

He said if the project is built, it will produce an economic boost to the Vicksburg economy.

He also said Alcorn plans to work with Hinds Community College, which already has a three-building branch in Vicksburg and other campuses in Raymond and Utica, and avoid the problems the University of Southern Mississippi had on the Gulf Coast.

Hinds had 1,612 students at the Vicksburg branch and 15,589 students in the entire district this fall.

“New faculty members will come and they will have to live and shop in Vicksburg, students will come to live in the city, and the branch will do business with local firms.

He said another part of the result of the Ayers case is the diversity scholarships the traditionally black schools are offering to non-black students.