Huebner talks MCC accomplishments, vision

Huebner

The past few years have been a challenge for Mississippi educators, but Meridian Community College is going strong.

At the college’s annual Legislative Luncheon Thursday, MCC president Thomas Huebner updated local officials on the achievements and goals he has for the school.

“This has been an interesting couple of years at the college,” he said. “In the world, it’s been an interesting couple of years.”

From a global pandemic to an economic decline, Huebner said the past two years have brought both challenges and successes to the college, some of which is counterintuitive.

For example, he said, people returning to school when the economy is bad hasn’t proved true this time around.

“Community colleges nationally have experienced a dramatic decline in population throughout the pandemic,” he said. “That’s counterintuitive, because you think when the economy is bad, people go back to school. Not this time. When the economy had a bad time, they didn’t go back to school.”

The pandemic also had an impact on how colleges approach degree programs and course offerings, Huebner said. The online learning environment opened up a wide range of opportunities for students, allowing them to enroll and attend colleges remotely. Digital academia, he said, put every college in the world in competition with each other.

As a result, Huebner said the programs MCC offers have to be just as good, if not better, than colleges with more resources.

“We’re in competition with colleges that have resources we wouldn’t even dream of,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Huebner said MCC has done some great things. The college served more than 4,500 students in for-credit courses in the last year and saw more than 6,000 students in its workforce training opportunities.

Several of the workforce programs even have waiting lists two and three terms long, he said.

MCC also saw more than 500 high school students take dual credit courses and awarded more than 780 degrees in 2020.

Last year, Huebner said, MCC received about $2.3 million from the City of Meridian and $1.2 million from the county, which represented about 7.34 percent of the college’s budget.

In return, he said, more than $23 million was put into Lauderdale County’s economy through salaries, scholarships, travel expenses and more.

“You just need to know when you spend money here, it comes back to you,” he said. “When you spend money here, it comes back to our community, it comes back to our schools, it comes back to everything we do. That’s what happens. That’s what we do.”

But MCC can’t do it alone. Huebner asked the city and county officials attending Thursday’s luncheon to help support the college in it’s goals.mIn the coming year, he asked officials to support the college in getting a grant from MDOT and for support on legislative issues such as American Rescue Plan Act dollars and a bill to allow community colleges to use more funding sources for dual enrollment classes.

Finally, Huebner asked city and county officials to support the college by supporting the community.

Meridian Community College doesn’t exist in a vacuum, he said.

“Everything that happens in Meridian and Lauderdale County impacts us. We’re linked,” he said. “I say shop local applies to your college too. High school equivalencies are important. Encourage people to get a GED. Encourage people to come back to school. We must find ways for our students to go to school and for our adults to have hope.”

 

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