- Associated Press - Sunday, February 1, 2015

GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Thousands of students looking to enhance their life opportunities have passed through the Greenville Higher Education Center, which in January began its 14th year of service.

The 88,000-square-foot campus is operated by Mississippi Delta Community College - one of three original partners, along with Delta State University and Mississippi Valley State University - in providing educational courses at the center, which opened its doors in January 2001.

Two years ago, Delta State quit offering courses at the center; last year Mississippi Valley enhanced its curriculum.

“We currently have about 500 students,” GHEC executive director Mary Anne Brocato said, somewhat fewer than in recent years.

“We had a meeting recently and talked about why that is,” she said. “We concluded we could do a better job of marketing ourselves.”



That may be the only thing the Greenville Higher Education Center doesn’t do well.

The center offers courses leading to associate degrees and has agreements that allow students looking to advance to a four-year university to complete a bachelor’s degree to do so.

“In Mississippi, we have an articulation agreement between our community colleges and our four-year schools with a uniform course-numbering system,” said Reed Abraham, Moorhead-based Mississippi Delta Community College’s associate vice president and the executive director of the school’s Development Foundation.

‘So, when students transfer, that answers ‘what was the course? Did it cover everything required?’ That is all taken care of on the front end.”

And such students, said Mississippi Delta executive vice president Charles Barnett, are well prepared to pursue a four-year degree.

“Every year we get reports from Ole Miss and Mississippi State” - other students transfer to Delta State University, in Cleveland, and to Mississippi Valley State University, in Itta Bena - “as to how our transfer students are doing, and they’re doing as well or better than those schools’ native students.”

Mississippi Valley State in the fall 2014 semester began offering courses at the Greenville center that are compatible with Mississippi Delta Community College’s associates-degree programs to provide students an opportunity to stay in Greenville and earn a bachelor’s degree.

It is something the university is looking to expand, Mississippi Valley President William Bynum said in August, shortly before the new curriculum offerings began.

“In about four or five years, we’ll be offering a vast majority of our degrees at GHEC,” he said.

MVSU now at GHEC offers degree-completion programs in criminal justice, mass communications, speech communications and physical education and recreation.

The university operates a bus system, Delta Rides, to provide GHEC students free transportation to Valley’s Itta Bena campus and is looking to expand the system, said Mississippi Delta’s Barnett who is partnering with Valley and others on the effort.

“We’re working together to try to modify the transit system and use GHEC as a hub so that any students, for instance, who want to come to this campus for career technical courses, or if they want to go to Mississippi Valley, they can do so,” he said. “Valley is a great partner.”

Efforts to fund the Greenville center began in earnest in 1995.

“There was a group of people who worked extremely hard to bring a higher educational center to Greenville,” said Abraham, “including Curtis Buchanan and Betty Lynn Cameron.”

The City of Greenville pledged $1 million in seed money and the Washington County Board of Supervisors also contributed.

“We did a lot of research,” said Buchanan, the former president of Deposit Guaranty Bank in Greenville who has been the chairman of GHEC’s advisory board since the beginning. “We told legislators that we had the lowest level of educational achievement in the state here in Greenville and in Washington County.

“We went to the Legislature, but we couldn’t get it approved the first year. There are legislators elsewhere in the state who just don’t care what goes on in the Delta.”

“Working with the Legislature was, is and always will be difficult,” said Paul Artman, the St. Joseph Catholic School principal who was Greenville’s mayor at the time GHEC was envisioned.

Despite the initial legislative setback, the group was undeterred.

“We put together a letter-writing campaign in a big way,” Buchanan said. “Residents sent hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of letters. Legislators told us, ‘y’all are about to swamp us with all these letters.’

“Charlie Williams, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee was on our side, and our legislative delegation worked very hard. Everyone was on the same page.

“The second year, it passed the House, it passed the Senate and the governor signed it. Altogether, it took us 15 months, but we got it done.

“A year later, we were turning dirt.”

Ground was broken in December 1998, and the first classes were offered in January 2001.

“Those were exciting times,” said Cameron, who now leads Main Street Greenville.

The GHEC campus today boasts a recently renovated commercial kitchen, “which we rent out for wedding receptions and other events,” Abraham said.

And a food court was added last summer, giving students more and healthier lunch options.

GHEC has 40 acres at its disposal, half of which the school rents to a grower.

Should funding become available, the center’s administrators, both here and in Moorhead, hope to build a 1,000-seat auditorium among other amenities.

And, Barnett said, “we’re looking at adding a career technical program at GHEC.”

Currently, the center boasts 18 classrooms, four computer labs and six science labs and a large library, well-equipped with 66 computers for student use.

“We have 5,000 physical books and access to 40,000 eBooks as well as a subscription to eBook services and databases for magazines,” outreach librarian Alice Permenter said.

The center also boasts a sizable conference room, which can be rented out.

“We’re very proud of what we offer,” said Brocata. “Our future is very bright.”

___

Information from: Delta Democrat-Times, https://www.ddtonline.com

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide