- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Community College Board will wait until at least January to name a new leader of for the state’s 15 two-year schools.

The board met Thursday and interviewed two finalists to become executive director, then chose to put off a decision, said board chairman Bruce Martin of Meridian.

Martin declined to comment when asked whether the board would consider new candidates. He also wasn’t sure if a decision would be made at the board’s Jan. 16 meeting.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Martin said. “I’m sure we’ll discuss it next month.”

The board has not identified the two finalists. Martin earlier described them as a man and a woman, both Mississippi residents, who are not currently presidents of any of the 15 colleges. The board coordinates the functions of the colleges, each of which has its own boards of trustees.

The current executive director, Eric Clark, is retiring at the end of June, after serving since 2008. Clark, a Democrat, served three terms as secretary of state from 1996 to 2008. Before that, he served 16 years in the state House, representing Jones, Smith and Covington counties.

One of the prime responsibilities of the executive director is to lobby the Legislature for money for the colleges. For the budget year that begins July 1, they receive a $79.1 million increase over this year’s appropriation of $251.7 million. That’s part of an effort to reach the goal set by a 2007 law that says the Legislature will fund colleges at a point halfway between the per-student funding levels of the state’s K-12 public schools and public universities.

Lawmakers have recommended a $3.7 million cut in community college funds in an early budget proposal.

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