Thursday, March 4, 2010
School districts push tuition plan
By SUE WATSON
The Marshall County Board of Supervisors heard a plea from the Holly Springs and Marshall County school districts Monday to find some way to participate in the Create Foundation’s tuition guarantee program.
Trustee Paul Lampley, with the city school district, urged the board to help find matching funds so students who want help with a two-year college program won’t miss the opportunity to get an education and a career due to lack of money for school.
Irene Walton, superintendent of education with the city, said each year the district is improving its graduation rates and now wants to know what the school district can do to help graduates take the next step.
Marvia Kilgore, representing Marshall County schools, said tuition guarantees are “imperative.”
“We know it all starts with people working and paying taxes,” she said, referring to the economy. “To me, this is a good place to start. The funds are there (from Create) and it is just a match. It’s about people paying into society, not taking from society.”
The board of supervisors agreed, despite the uphill battle the nation, states and counties face to come up with any money for needed projects.
Larry Hall, county administrator, said Benton County, one of two counties not participating earlier, has some students in the program. Several years ago the Planning and Development Districts proposed that counties put up $25,000 a year to build up a pool of money that could be used to fund the tuition guarantee program. The program requires the student to exhaust all usual sources of tuition support first and then the student must maintain grades. They can attend the college of their own choosing.
“Nobody in this room is opposed to it,” Hall said. “Knowing there will be budget shortfalls, there was no way to add $100,000 to the budget. But working together....”
Bill Mobley, Industrial Development Authority director, clarified he has served on the Create Committee for tuition guarantee, serving with Bill Renick (Three Rivers Planning and Development District), and he is embarrassed that Marshall is the only county that has not taken advantage of the program.
The program guarantees two years’ tuition for qualifying students who have exhausted all other means of support. The actual amounts a county spends turns out to be small, he said.
“It gives every student a chance to go for two years,” he said.
The program was started at Meridian Community College, he said.
Hall cited some figures that said Calhoun County had 31 students to apply and five were awarded the tuition. Lafayette County also participated and 10 students took advantage of the program. The average size of the award came to $410, he said.
Lampley urged the community to find the right steps to make the program available to all deserving students in the county.
“To these young persons, it means life or death,” he said.
Supervisor George Zinn III asked if the first step would be to form a committee to enlist support for the program.
Hall suggested the stakeholders meet with Sharon Gardner, executive director of Northeast Planning and Development District, to design a plan.
Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett admitted these are difficult economic times and “everyone knows these are bad times, but there are a lot of smart kids” who deserve a a fair shake at a college degree.
“Let us know the route we need to take on this and we are going to move with it,” said Lampley.
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