Who will teach them?
In 10 years, community colleges are expected to face teacher shortage

By Staff
EMPTY DESK Taylor Hollingsworth, left, Ashley Swearingen, Taylor Carroll, Chelsea Brooks, Donnie Carroll, Holly Lynn Howard, Rebecca Hodge, and Haley Francis all sit and do their homework at the Pat Gray Dance Studio. This group will be in college in 10 years. But if the number of community college teachers declines as some project, there could be fewer teachers to teach them. A new master's degree program at Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus was announced earlier this week that could help ease the projected shortage. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY KYLE CARTER / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
July 18, 2004
Kathy Baxter, associate vice president for research and development at Meridian Community College, has no plans to retire from teaching any time soon.
Baxter, who also teaches political science at MCC, has been at the school for 27 years. And like a growing number of community college instructors, she has earned her retirement.
It's a good thing, too, because MCC could use the help. Baxter said MCC, along with community and junior colleges across the state, are having trouble recruiting qualified teachers because they have to compete with the public school system. Recruiting teachers has also become a concern because half of Mississippi's community and junior college instructors will be eligible for retirement within the next 10 years.
That is partly what prompted Mississippi State University, Alcorn State University and the MidSouth Partnership for Rural and Community Colleges, to introduce a new degree program at Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus for future community college instructors.
The program is designed to introduce students to the philosophy and culture of the community college, and to prepare them to teach nontraditional and first generation college students.
MSU-Meridian also announced a new Master of Arts in Teaching – Secondary Teacher Education Alternate Route Program and a Saturday Master of Business Administration Program.
Bill Scaggs, former MCC president, is the executive director of the MidSouth Partnership. He said the partnership's goal is "to secure the state's community and junior colleges in order to revitalize the rural South."
George Thomas, chair of the education division at MSU-Meridian, said the new program is important because more than 90 percent of Meridian students who go to college begin their educational careers at a community college.
MidSouth Partnership
The MidSouth Partnership for Rural and Community Colleges began in 1993 as a conversation between MSU professors, community college leaders and The Phil Hardin Foundation in Meridian. It is now seen as a model to other states who are joining together to promote their community based colleges.
In 2000, ASU and MSU received a planning grant from the Ford Foundation, and they still operate under extensions of that grant. The partnership also is supported by the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education. MSU, ASU then formed a cooperative agreement with community colleges in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, and a few in Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Scaggs said the partnership decided to bring the master's in community college teaching to MSU-Meridian because community and junior college deans expressed their concerns about recruiting instructors to them.
Scaggs said that he wants to see more people stay in rural areas to build a career, and he said his role in the partnership is to communicate the community colleges' needs to the state universities.
Growing concerns
Baxter is one of several teachers who have continued to work despite being eligible for retirement. Barbara Jones, dean of academic affairs at MCC, said she also has no immediate plans to retire, although she is eligible to do so.
Jones, who teaches English at MCC, said she has been in the education field for more than 30 years, and she is concerned that there will be no one to fill the vacancies when she and other community college instructors eventually retire.
MCC isn't the only local community college concerned about the projected teacher shortage.
Phil Sutphin, president of East Central Community College in Decatur, said last week that he is interested in the new program at MSU-Meridian because he is also looking for qualified instructors.
Community colleges:
Here are a few short facts about the history of Mississippi's community and junior colleges and their enrollment for the 2002-2003 academic school years among the latest statistics that were available from the Mississippi Board of Community and Junior Colleges.
The Mississippi Board of Community and Junior Colleges was established in the 1920s by the Legislature to oversee the activities and growth of three junior colleges; Mississippi now has 15 community and junior colleges.
Average tuition and fees per year for state community and junior colleges: $1,396
From July 2002-July 2003, enrollment in state community and junior colleges: 86,364; 63 percent were women, 41 percent were non-white, and the average age of students was 25
In the fall of 2002, more than 60 percent of all freshmen in both public and private post secondary institutions in the state were enrolled in public community and junior
colleges.
In the fall of 2002, more than 49 of all undergraduate students both in public and private post-secondary institutions in the state were enrolled in public community and junior colleges.
Of all technical and career students who completed programs in the 2002-2003 school year, more than 88 percent were placed in jobs after graduation.

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