College shouldn’t be only for those with means, and that’s where we’re headed

Published 9:45 pm Saturday, June 17, 2017

“Every time you raise tuition, you also risk reducing access. That’s bad, but it’s an unfortunate consequence of the environment in which we are currently operating,” said Dr. Scott Elliott, president of Meridian Community College.

Those comments came Wednesday, shortly after it was announced the cost of tuition at community colleges across the state would be increasing by an average of 13.1 percent.

“One of the long-established tenets of the American community college movement is to offer quality higher education opportunities at the lowest possible price,” he said, admitting that is a difficult challenge.

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Pearl River Community College President-elect Adam Breerwood, said the trend of tuitions increasing, is worrisome. In addition to the rising costs, schools have been forced to cut staff, trim services and eliminate programs, such as some sports.

“I hope our students can handle these cuts,” Breerwood said. “That’s really who it’s going to affect. Once you get rid of a program, it’s very difficult to get it back.”

Local students who attend Hinds Community College are not immune to the challenge of rising costs. Tuition at Hinds will reach about $3,000 beginning in the fall after an 8.5 percent tuition increase.

The announcement last week follows another round of increases at the state universities, announced in April.

University presidents, board and system officials are often reluctant to criticize funding cuts by the hands of the Legislature. They would rather not for fear of risking additional cuts tied to negative comments or questioning the source for most of their funding.

As the cost of tuition increases at a rate faster than the cost of living in Mississippi, the opportunity for a college education for those living in this state will slip away for many. Something has to change.

If we are to remain competitive — or rather become more competitive — for better jobs, with better pay, we must find ways to make a college, or trade education affordable for those who want it.

We cannot afford as a state to only have those with means to get the education that would allow for a better life. Something has to change.