/Budget group State not preparing students for college

Budget group State not preparing students for college

As state officials examine details about education spending, lawmakers and education officials pointed out Monday that remediation costs for college students are a crucial area to investigate. Representatives from all three levels of education, K-12, community colleges, and Institutions of Higher Learning were questioned by lawmakers about their expenditures. They also offered suggestions to reduce spending. This session was part the tax and budget work groups that were announced earlier in the summer. These working groups are intended to evaluate the state’s tax structure as well as 13 state agency budgets. These budgets include K-12, community college, and IHL. They account for more than 90% of the general fund equivalents. Tate Reeves stated. “We want money to go into the classroom. At the K-12 hearing, Philip Gunn (Republican from Clinton), stated that this is where the rubber meets road. Gunn led the discussion. Gunn focused on the $35 million that colleges and universities spend each year on student remediation. Andrea Mayfield, head of community colleges, said that remediation is required by between 50 and 80 percent of students. Kell Smith, spokesperson from the Mississippi Community College Board, stated that around 74 percent of community college students needed to take remedial courses during the 2015 fall semester. Mayfield recommended that K-12 students have more options for dual credit and dual enrollment. Mayfield also suggested that K-12 educators identify students sooner to determine their aptitude for college or career. It’s about whether we are willing to spend money once or twice to get students ready to go to work. It is important to start testing students in high school early enough so that we can determine where they are at the college level and their aptitude. “From there, you need to at some stage have them move forward in the academic track if they’re going that way or into the career and technical education tracks.” Glenn Boyce, Institutions of Higher Learning Commissioner, also spoke out about the state’s admission standards for colleges. He said it was “one of the lowest” sets of standards in the country. Boyce stated that he has begun to discuss the pros and cons with other university presidents about the current admission standards for students from both the state and outside of it. He said that Mississippi students have access to higher education. This is one of the benefits. Mayfield agreed with him that “we don’t want the access cut off.” Legislators also asked Education Department officials about an increase of funds for travel and contract services. Todd Ivey was the chief financial officer of the state education department. He said that the amount they were referring to for travel included federal funds. Kim Benton, Chief Academic Officer, pointed out two new programs that could have increased travel costs: literacy and early childhood coaches. The 2013 Literacy-Based Promotion Act requires literacy coaches to work with third-graders on literacy skills. Benton stated that literacy coaches travel a lot and are often out in the field every day. Ivey stated that most of the rise in contracts could be attributed the costs of assessment, such as the Mississippi Assessment Program or ACT. Questar Assessment, Inc., the producer of the Mississippi Assessment Program, has a contract with Education Department for a 10-year, $122 Million contract. ACT was paid $1.3 million by the department to administer Questar Assessment, Inc.’s standardized college entrance test to every 11th grader during the 2014-2015 schoolyear. The working group wants all three agencies to give an inventory of their programs, and how they align with state priorities and missions. They are also being asked questions about what budget cuts they would make if they were faced with another round and how they would spend additional money if they had a 10-percent increase in funding. Through November, the tax and budget groups will meet. The goal is for final recommendations to be made in time for 2017’s legislative session. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to us today as part of the Spring Member Drive. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think. Republish this Story You can republish our articles online or in print for free under a Creative Commons licence.