With an eye toward the future, the Coahoma Community College Board of Trustees planned for short and long term needs and aspirations during its monthly business meeting.
The meeting began with a financial report, detailing that the state of the college is strong. According to the report presented to the board, the current revenue projects were on target to meet the projected needs. By the end of January, given expected incoming and outgoing revenue, the amount on hand exceeded 12 million dollars.
As the board members reviewed the financial reports, members asked about the outsourced athletic training performed by a company called Cornerstone. President Valmadge Towner replied that, after the former sports trainer moved on to another job months ago, the CCC athletic department outsourced the work to Cornerstone. Ideally, while the school would prefer to hire a trainer, the immediate need was to find a trainer for the sports currently underway.
“We wanted to avoid what happened at Alcorn State,” Towner explained. The Alcorn State situation involved the school almost losing its most lucrative football game because of a lack of certified sports trainers available for the team. The situation received significant media coverage and ultimately led to the removal of the school’s athletic director.
Board members also asked about expenses arising from the transition from AT&T to C-Spire for the school’s cellular and internet services. According to Towner, most of the expenses are covered by the state but some will be incurred by the individual institutions. The entire community college system in Mississippi is converting from AT&T to C-Spire. The board then learned that the college has paid over $300,000 to C-Spire since July 1, 2021.
The C-Spire question evolved into a discussion of the many businesses that reap significant profit from doing business with the college but won’t support the school financially. “Many benefit from the college, but they won’t give back,” Towner added.
Towner informed the board that someone will soon be appointed to the position of development officer. According to Towner, people contribute when they have established relationships with institutions.
Development was then identified by Towner as one of the three areas of focus in the near future, along with alumni relations and getting stakeholders to support the college.
The board then heard about a new project, with which the college is joining Tunica County. A large-scale workforce development project, currently in the planning stages, will include Tunica County, Coahoma Community College and likely Northwest Mississippi Community College.
“This is similar to the workforce development project in Batesville,” Towner explained. Tunica County is working to obtain funding from state sources to fully implement the wide-scale workforce development. One of the chief tasks is acquiring and developing a facility for the programs. Ideas on the table include an old shopping center that currently sits unused.
Tunica County wants the college to handle instruction in the programs, while the county will administer the programs.
The board heard admissions and student body statistics. As of the first day of class, 1,078 students were enrolled, with a strong possibility of many more. Over 300 students are eligible students but have not yet enrolled. It is not unusual for students to enroll late, and the current COVID issues may also affect that total.
Towner then described how the COVID issue remains paramount for the college. “Most classes are currently virtual,” he explained. “Our COVID task force now meets daily. Masks are required. We also have on-site rapid testing available to students.”
The changes imposed by the COVID pandemic have also altered long-range planning for the school. “Before COVID, one in 678 jobs were virtual,” said Towner. “Now, it’s one in seven jobs. We have to prepare our classes and our training to prepare students for the world that has become more virtual.”
Board attorney Stephen Brandon gave an update on COVID from the perspective of insurance companies planning for the future. According to Brandon, Marsh Analytics is the top American insurer of risks, analogous to Lloyd’s of London.
The Marsh team expects two peaks in COVID cases during the next year.
“America often follows the lead of Israel in handling COVID,” Brandon explained. “Israel will soon make their fourth shot available, so it’s reasonable to think that America is ultimately following that path.