PRCC’s Dr. Lewis speaks to Picayune Rotary Club
By Jodi Marze
Dr. William Lewis, President of Pearl River Community College, spoke on historical aspects of the college and the legislation program agenda for 2014 at the Picayune Rotary Club on Tuesday.
He was introduced by Judge Gerald Cruthird, who said that Lewis, who has served in his current position since July 1, 2000, has facilitated great progress at the college in the areas of fine arts and athletics.
Lewis gave a brief history of the college, which is the oldest community college in the nation.
“The system today is one that in the last two years has had studies recognize our system as one of the most efficient and effective colleges in the system,” Lewis said.
In addition to historical aspects of the college, Lewis touched on the current legislative program agenda.
“Every year our presidents of state community colleges meet in the summer and put together initiatives. This year we focused on three; the first is the achievement of mid level funding— the current funding puts us mid way between K-12’s and regional universities like Alcorn. Mid point per pupil K-12 is $4,824, it is $6,125 for regional, and mid point for community colleges is 39 percent behind the K-12.
“$173 million is needed to bring us up to par, but our starting level discussion point is $80 million, which is halfway. We hope they will make some movement towards mid level funding.”
The next initiative regards capital improvements.
“This addresses needs such as building needs and repairs. The legislature took bond money and last year they chose to put in repair and renovation money, about $5 million, into general funds for us. We have asked them for $14 million this year. Also we have asked for additional money for a state bond request.”
The third initiative addresses dropout recovery.
“Dropout recovery is an initiative to help folks who have dropped out of high school obtain General Educational Development (GED) and get job skills while completing it,” Lewis said. “The problem is the legislature funded $1 million to market and help the first phase of the process, and one half million to fund job skills. They never have funded the other half of that which is to train for job skills.”
“Pearl River Community College has been very fortunate and very blessed. We have received several honors this year and we are one of two community colleges in the state to be named on Aspen List,” Lewis said. “We feel we have a lot to be proud of. We hope the community is happy with the services we provide and the taxpayers are happy with the way their tax dollars have been spent.”
After the meeting, Rotarians expressed admiration for Lewis and the college.
“Dr. Lewis does an outstanding job running one of the most premiere community colleges if not in just the state, in the country,” said Rotarian John Pigott. “It continues to be the best bang for the buck in the system.”