Thursday, March 29, 2007
NWCC growing; funding needed
By SUE WATSON
Officials with Northwest Mississippi Community College made a second appearance to the boardroom last week to advise supervisors of growth and to put in a plug for more funding.
President Gary Spears thanked the citizens of Marshall County for their longstanding support for the college and reviewed some recent statistics.
NWCC serves an 11-county area with a total student body of 6,646 this year. Marshall County has 346 students this semester at Northwest.
“We’re the community college of Marshall County, always have been and hope to be,” Spears said.
He is a graduate of NWCC, has worked there for years and served two years as president since David Haraway stepped down.
“We’re the third largest community college in Mississippi behind Hinds and Gulf Coast in enrollment,” Spears said.
He said Northwest, which was not included in the $30 million spin-off in workforce development dollars that went to community colleges in the eastern portion of the state, hopes be a player in terms of economic development and workforce training that will result from the location of a Toyota assembly plant in Union County.
Spears said the $30 million in workforce funds the legislature earmarked for Toyota went to Northeast, Itawamba and East Mississippi community colleges.
“That deal was made in silence,” said Larry Hall, county administrator.
Supervisor Keith Taylor offered optimism, however, that the Northwest region would get some spin-off industries.
Spears said Northwest’s workforce training program is strong.
The college did not reach its goal of 7,000 students this year. Spears said heavy marketing in this area by out-of-state colleges offering on-line education and degrees is attracting students away from traditional colleges.
But Northwest does offer courses on-line, he said.
Spears said community colleges will have to compete for state funding this year, and there’s a need for more buildings.
“We’re square between K-12 and IHL (institutions of higher learning); we hope to get a good state appropriation, but we need Marshall County’s support, too,” he said.
Gary Mosely, vice-president and comptroller, said counties can contribute up to 3 mills annually for building improvements and three mills for general support. Marshall County has been contributing 1.8 mills, he said.
After Northwest officials left the boardroom, supervisors whisked through a short agenda.
Lois Swanee, curator of the Marshall County Historical Museum, approached supervisors for $1,000 as seed money to support an all-day Marshall County birthday celebration September 8. The event will be held in conjunction with the Audubon Society’s annual hummingbird migration celebration.
The county was established in 1836.
The game plan for the birthday party is to have lots of old-timey events and tours and include a pet show, band, beauty review, sack race, talent show, Indian camp and powwow, cemetery tour, cake walk, flea market, amateur music contest, bands playing at nine antebellum homes, a church tour, a museum tour, a Civil War encampment, buggy and wagon rides, a log-pulling contest, and much more.
Swanee said the objectives are to “clean up and fix up the town, add more to the tour attractions in conjunction with the hummingbird festival, show the world how great we are, meet our neighbors, show off the town and county, spur business, and be unique, go old timey and men grow beards.”
Supervisors requested the road department to replace numerous signs that were down in several districts.
DeSoto County has agreed to work with Marshall County on road improvements on Mason Road.
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