A computer rendering from Pryor & Morrow Architects shows the first phase of East Mississippi Community College's 25-year plan at the Golden Triangle campus in Mayhew. A $15-million, two-story, 75,000-square-foot student union could be completed by 2015.
MAYHEW -- An influx of students is on the horizon, and East Mississippi Community College plans to be ready when it comes.
School administrators are making the rounds this summer, pitching their 25-year plan to county boards of supervisors throughout EMCC's six-county district. In some cases they're asking for millage increases as the boards draft county budgets which will take effect in October. In others they're courting corporate partners to help build the future of education. In all cases they're prophesying the rush of students to come when the economy picks up.
"Even in a bad economy you see an enrollment increase at first as people go back to school after lay-offs. Then you reach a point where people max out on funding. But when the economy improves, that leads to hiring," said Dr. Paul Miller, vice president of EMCC's Golden Triangle campus.
That's when the boom hits, because EMCC is uniquely suited for training uniquely skilled labor. As the Golden Triangle Global Industrial Aerospace Park continues to grow, Miller said, EMCC's Workforce Services division will continue its role as the state's premier industrial labor training facility.
Meanwhile, the percentage of jobs that require post-secondary degrees will only continue to rise, leading to an increase in students seeking career-technical and academic degrees.
With even more students on the way, EMCC President Dr. Rick Young thinks it's time to get aggressive about the college's plans for new facilities.
"We can't keep on doing a lot with a little. Even when the economy is down, you've got to invest in the future," Young said.
"It comes down to this: We can't provide the services and facilities our communities deserve if we don't have the same kind of county support that other community colleges enjoy."
The first item of business in EMCC's long-range facility plan is a student union.
With a new $6.6 million, 41,250-square-foot student union set to open in August on EMCC's Scooba campus, attention has turned to the Golden Triangle campus. With more than twice as many students as the Scooba campus, the Golden Triangle campus is slated to receive a $15-million, two-story, 75,000-square-foot student union. But those figures are approximate, as is the best-case completion date of Fiscal Year 2015.
"Then we'll be almost forced into student housing at the Golden Triangle campus," said Miller.
The Golden Triangle is, currently, solely a commuter campus. But EMCC's administration believes the addition of a student union will remove the obstacles to becoming a residential campus by supplying necessary food, leisure and daily needs options to students.
Plus, the economics of going to college are changing. For now, many Golden Triangle students not from the area can afford an apartment in the university cities of Starkville or Columbus, thanks to help from financial aid.
"Pell grants are being cut and there are a lot of issues changing the way students pay. But more folks are going to go to college, and by 2016-2017 we'll be in a position where residential life will be necessary," said Miller.
Additional housing is also in the works at the Scooba campus. But with the construction of a student union, a state-of-the-art football stadium, the Orr Center for Christian Activity and a rodeo barn all during the past three years in Scooba, construction at EMCC's south campus will slow in coming years.
Assuming funding is available over the next 25 years, the Golden Triangle campus intends to add the student union, residence halls, a shop building to house technical programs like welding and Precision Machining & Manufacturing and more classroom buildings. Pryor & Morrow Architects of Columbus, the firm that designed the Scooba union, will design the union and conceive expansion plans at the Golden Triangle campus.
An Allied Health Services building at the Golden Triangle industrial park to house EMCC's nursing and health care programs is also on the wish list.
"There's a reason we call ourselves 'community colleges,'" Young said.
"We support the people of our district. We help create self-sufficient people who go to work every day to support their families, pay their taxes and take on leadership roles in their communities. We give people the tools they need to knock down the barriers between themselves and the future."
The fall semester at all EMCC locations begins Aug. 20. Final registration is Aug. 16-17. For more information, call the Golden Triangle campus at (662) 243-1900 or the Scooba campus at (662) 476-5000.