June 16, 2017 10:25:22 AM
JACKSON -- Community colleges across Mississippi are eliminating nearly 250 jobs for the upcoming year to close budget gaps, and five are dropping at least one intercollegiate sport.
The moves come as the 15 community colleges increase tuition by an average of 13 percent, mostly because state funding has fallen. Average tuition and fees will rise to $3,104 annually, up from $2,748 this year.
Community College Board Executive Director Andrea Mayfield said Tuesday in a statement that 81 people will be laid off, while 122 jobs will be eliminated after employees leave or retire. Colleges plan to cut 35 student jobs, a way many students earn money for school, and will eliminate three vacant positions.
"With each college having different needs, and facing different financial situations, the impact of budget cuts to colleges extends far beyond the tuition increase," Mayfield said.
Colleges started the current budget year with $265 million in state funding but will start next year with $237 million.
The schools had nearly 5,900 full-time employees in 2016, with thousands more part-time employees.
Coahoma Community College could rescind pay raises for employees. College spokeswoman Brittany Davis-Green said Wednesday that if other money isn't found, the college could take back raises of 2 percent to 3 percent given to all employees in the now-ending budget year, an amount worth $250,000. For now, employees will continue to receive the pay bump at the 2,200-student Clarksdale institution.
"We're going to wait and see if we can go down other avenues so we don't have to take that step," Davis-Green said.
More than two dozen college employees will see pay cuts because their contracts will be reduced to less than year-round or supplemental pay for coaching sports will be eliminated.
Board spokesman Kell Smith said community colleges will drop a total of 11 sports. Copiah-Lincoln will stop sponsoring men's and women's soccer; East Mississippi will end men's golf; Holmes will drop men's and women's tennis; Northeast Mississippi will end men's golf, and men's and women's tennis; and Northwest Mississippi will end men's golf, and men's and women's tennis.
Smith said the colleges would continue to honor scholarships for athletes in those sports.
The independently governed schools made their own decisions about cuts.
East Central Community College President Billy Stewart said his institution is absorbing a $1 million cut in state funding, part of the reason the Decatur-based school raised tuition nearly 20 percent, though it will remain the lowest statewide at $2,790 a year. Stewart said the college won't fill 10 vacant positions, won't give salary increases and will cut other spending.
"It can't be an all-on-the-student situation," he said.
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