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Co-Lin faced with budget uncertainty

WESSON – State budget uncertainties are having a trickle downeffect at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, and board members wereunable to begin determining new year funding levels for programsand personnel at Thursday’s meeting.

“We cannot really progress with our budget until we have a lotmore information on our funding,” said Dr. Ronnie Nettles,president of the college.

He said information he has received seemed to indicate thegovernor’s budget for 2009-2010 has put community colleges at 99percent of the funding level they had for the previous year.

“That assumes the state funds will not be cut any more,” Nettlessaid.

Planners have begun to form some contingency plans, he said, butwithout a draft budget to work from virtually all personnel optionsare open.

“At this point, we feel like we will be able to fill somepositions we’ve had frozen, make a few part-time positionsfull-time and we’ll freeze some positions that will be becomingvacant,” Nettles said.

The board will also request an increase from supporting countyboards of supervisors, he said, but the counties would determinethe size of their annual appropriations. Nettles said he could noteven begin to predict the size of the appropriations becausecounties are also uncertain of the state budget and are hurtingfrom the recession.

“We don’t want to request a specific percentage because of theeconomic situation,” he said. “We’ll let them decide what they cando.”

The board did receive some good funding news, however.

A grant request through the Division of Public Safety Planningwas approved to provide $25,285 in new equipment of the campuspolice department. Although the original request was for $75,000and included unapproved items like a weather siren, Nettles saidthey were thrilled to be approved for even a portion of therequest.

The grant will provide one vehicle, two tasers, two computersand an outdoor surveillance camera, among other items.

“Only full-time officers will have access to some of thisequipment, such as the tasers, and that is the chief and assistantchief,” Nettles said.

The president also informed board members that the college’snursing program had failed to meet a tougher accreditation standardon the annual Mississippi College Board review.

Only 10 of the state’s 21 nursing program’s met allrequirements, including Southwest Mississippi Community College. Anadditional nine programs, including Co-Lin, fell short by only onestandard. Alcorn State missed two standards and Coahoma CommunityCollege failed to meet 10 standards.

According to the annual college review, Co-Lin did not meet thelicensure passage requirement, which counts the number of graduateswho pass the national licensing examination to become registerednurses.

The results come after the College Board approved revisions tothe nursing standards that raised the licensure passage requirementfrom 75 percent passing the exam to a floating number that is 95percent of the national average test scores. The national averagefor 2007, on which the results were based, was 82.4. Co-Lin fellshort of that number by 2.4.

Part of the revision was to allow a second attempt for passageof the exam, she said. The school soared past the 82.4 nationalaverage to 93.3 percent following second attempts.

“You don’t need to be concerned,” Nettles said. “Nursingprograms throughout the state are not struggling, they’re thriving.These are tough programs and the standards have changed, but we’remeeting those standards. We have a very strong nursing program andwe’re proud of what they’ve accomplished.”