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Report To The People

House Proposal Would Increase Funding For State’s Tuition Assistance Grant Program

By Tommy Reynolds

Last week I presented to the House Appropriations Committee a proposal to increase funding for the MTAG Program, which provides funds to assist the payment of tuition for Mississippi students attending college. Currently freshman and sophomores attending Mississippi colleges who qualify and maintain an acceptable grade point average only receive $500 per year in MTAG grant.

This means the students only receive $250 per semester in tuition assistance. The cost of tuition has skyrocketed at our state universities and community colleges. For example, the cost of each semester’s tuition at community colleges now averages almost $900 per semester. This does not include the cost of books or living expenses or other necessary expenses that students and their families have to incur.

The amount of MTAG Grant to Mississippi students has not increased in the last several years and the cost of attending college has greatly increased. I proposed that an additional $7.5 million be included in the funding for the MTAG Program so that beginning next year Mississippi’s freshman and sophomores could receive $500 per semester in MTAG Grants to attend community and senior colleges rather than the current $250 per semester.

I think it is critical that in hard economic times when we have tens of thousands of Mississippians having to be retrained for new job opportunities that our community and senior colleges remain affordable for the families of our state.

I will be presenting this proposal in the form of a bill within the next two weeks to the Appropriations Committee, and hope this proposal will be considered by the full House of Representatives thereafter.

Also of critical significance is the restoration of the money cut from the MTAG Program in the current year by the Governor which totals almost $1 million. I am proposing that this amount be restored so the MTAG Grants for the current year.

The House of Representatives last week approved HB 1677 to fund Mississippi’s K-12 education program for the 2010 state fiscal year beginning July 1st. The Bill would fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). This would mean that districts such as Water Valley, Coffeeville and Charleston would get much needed state funds that would not be reduced under the approved formula for distribution. I believe that it is critical that children in all school districts of our state be assured of a basic level of education support, and the MAEP Program is designed to assure that children in low property tax school districts such as ours receive equivalent funding to wealthier school districts. Education is a critical key to economic development, and I do not believe that we need to shortchange this hope for our future generations.

If I can be of any assistance to you please call on me. My phone number in Jackson during the session is (601) 359-3365. The phone number in my Charleston office is (662) 647-3203, and my residence phone number is (662) 473-2571. I can also be contacted by writing me at my home address of 15 CR 429, Water Valley, MS 38965, or at my office address of P.O. Box 220, Charleston, MS 38921.

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