PRCC seeks county funds for free tuition

By BUSTER WOLFE,

Every Lamar County high school graduate will receive free tuition at Pearl River Community College under a proposal presented to the Board of Supervisors at its meeting last Thursday.

The cost would be $300,000 per year.

PRCC President Dr. Adam Breerwood made the presentation at the Board of Supervisors meeting at the William J. “Pete” Gamble III Chancery Courthouse in Purvis. He called the plan “a life-changing opportunity.”

“It does require an investment on both of our parts – on the part of the college and on the part of the Board of Supervisors,” he said. “What we are asking you to look at and maybe take some time to ponder and think about it is a County Tuition Assistance Program.”

Under the program, students will receive tuition for four consecutive semesters at Pearl River Community College if they remain enrolled at one of our programs. Non-tuition expenses – like books or room and board – are not included. Students must enter Pearl River immediately following high school or after the completion of the High School Equivalency Program.

Breerwood said all other forms of financial aid will be applied first before the tuition assistance kicks in.

“For instance, after their academic scholarship is applied with the same scholarship, athletic scholarship, any of the service scholarships, this would fill in the gap to meet the final bounds of tuition,” he said. “Each student must take 15 hours and they must maintain their 15 hours, passing them each semester. Also, it requires a 2.0 grade point average to continue in the program.”

Breerwood said the cost would be $75,000 a semester.

“I know that figure can seem large to some of you, so let’s think about what we’re talking about,” he said. “One hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year and at its peak after four semesters, the whole investment would be $300,000. A $300,000 annual investment would provide higher educational opportunities to every high school graduate or High School Equivalency Program graduate in Lamar County.

“We would have an opportunity to stand up and say, ‘Anyone who wants to go to college that’s graduated from one of our high schools or for some reason got knocked off course along the way and has an opportunity to engage in our High School Equivalency Program, you can come to Pearl River Community College tuition-free.’”

Lamar County high school graduates pick PRCC over other community colleges, enrolling 799. Jones County Junior College is second with 339, followed by Mississippi Gulf Coast (28) and other junior colleges (29).

Breerwood said Lamar County is also reaping the benefits of PRCC’s workforce.

“We ran a report that says those employees who live in Lamar County with the full support of their salaries and benefits last year was over $3 million,” he said, noting Lamar County provides $1 million to PRCC in county support. “In Fiscal Year 2019, it’s going to be $3,139,000 in faculty, benefits and salaries are being pumped into your county. In traditional scholarships to Lamar County students, we gave away over $265,000 in scholarships last year.”

Breerwood told the supervisors “Pearl River Community College is your hometown college.”

“We do need your assistance and we do need your consideration,” he said. “I know it’s a big ask, but I believe the return on investment in your community is going to come back tenfold.”

Board members said they would consider the proposal during budget talks.

PREP SPORTS: