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Official urges students to finish community college degree program

THE DAILY LEADER / RHONDA DUNAWAY / Mississippi Community College Board Executive Director Dr. Eric Clark (at the podium) speaks to an audience in Rea Auditorium about the C4 initiative that encourages completion of community college with a certificate  or degree. Also pictured are members of the Eta Omega Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (from left) and Co-Lin President Dr. Ronnie Nettles. Clark is touring Mississippi's community colleges and spoke at Co-Lin Monday.

THE DAILY LEADER / RHONDA DUNAWAY / Mississippi Community College Board Executive Director Dr. Eric Clark (at the podium) speaks to an audience in Rea Auditorium about the C4 initiative that encourages completion of community college with a certificate or degree. Also pictured are members of the Eta Omega Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (from left) and Co-Lin President Dr. Ronnie Nettles. Clark is touring Mississippi’s community colleges and spoke at Co-Lin Monday.

“The 21st Century will belong to those who are educated and technologically trained,” said Mississippi Community College Board Executive Director Dr. Eric Clark during a visit earlier this week to the Copiah-Lincoln Community College campus.

Clark spoke to students and others Monday in Rea Auditorium about the importance of getting a certificate or degree from a community college. Clark is touring Mississippi’s community colleges talking to students about the Community College Completion Corps, or “C4” and the importance of education.

College presidents are working together to coordinate C4 events, explained Co-Lin President Dr. Ronnie Nettles, who introduced Clark.

“In the future, community college completion will affect student loan funding and college funding,” Nettles said. The C4 initiative was started by members of Phi Theta Kappa, which represents more than 500 college campuses in the U.S. Colleges and universities receive federal funding based on a history of student course completion, Nettles explained. “And, we hope this will increase graduation rates at the community college level.”

There are benefits of attending a community college before a university, Nettles said. Classes are smaller, and there is better communication with teachers and a lower cost, he said.

When Clark took the podium he concurred with Nettles on the value of community college studies. “The debt is smaller after you finish,” Clark said. “The average community college tuition is $2,300 per semester and the average university semester will cost $6,200.”

“There’s a lot of opportunities in the state of Mississippi,” Clark said. “But there aren’t people available who have the required skills and education to fill them. College completion is more important than it ever has been before.” He said that any well paying job in the future will require technical skills that can be attained in the classroom.

There is also the situation that Clark said was common – people who’ve transferred their credits to a community college but have to withdraw before getting their bachelor’s degree.

“If something happens after the first two years and they have to drop out,” Clark said, “they are more likely to get a good job with a two-year degree under their belt. Employers will look at that and say, ‘Hey, this guy knows something about how to finish what he started.'”

Clark explained that people with associate’s degrees transfer to universities as a junior. They can also go through the process of having a reverse transfer done. This is where someone can go back in the records and get their community college hours certified as an associate degree, if they have met all other requirements for a specified field of study.

Clark was inducted into the Eta Omega Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa as an honorary member on his visit to the campus Monday.

To learn more about the C4 initiative, contact the Counseling Center on the Wesson campus at 601-643-8490.