Mississippi editorial roundup
Posted September 14
Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Sun Herald on hours of operation for bars in Bay St. Louis:
The Bay St. Louis City Council on Monday night turned to the people for advice on bars and music.
There is some disagreement about what time bars should close and how late they should have music. Some at the meeting suggested bars close at 10 p.m.
Some bar owners oppose any restriction on their hours of operation. That's not reasonable, either.
Somewhere between the two, there has to be common ground.
The bars and taverns downtown and in the Depot District have played a big role in the city's recovery from 2005's Hurricane Katrina. Onerous restrictions on their hours and music aren't the way to repay them.
Balancing the bar owners' need to attract business with the neighborhood's need for a good night's sleep won't be easy. But a group of bar owners and residents formed by the City Council should be able to get it done.
The Bay is an important player in the Coast's tourism scene. The solution should keep it as fun-loving and vibrant as ever.
The Greenwood Commonwealth on Mississippi's growing public universities:
The fall semester enrollment numbers are generally good for Mississippi's eight public universities, but they are a concern for most of the state's 15 community colleges.
A report last week said the number of students at the universities is up 2.5 percent from a year ago. Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Jackson State and Mississippi University for Women reported their highest enrollments ever. And Mississippi Valley State posted the state's second highest percentage increase at 8.4 percent, trailing only The W in that ranking. This is the third straight annual increase for MVSU, after previously seeing its enrollment decline to the point where it was at risk of becoming unsustainable as a stand-along university.
Systemwide, it's believed that part of the enrollment jump can be attributed to attracting more students from other states. That's also good news. Non-Mississippi residents who spend eight or nine months a year at a university have a positive effect on the economy.
Enrollment at the two-year schools, though, continued a decline that dates back to 2010. All told, the 15 community colleges have about 1 percent fewer students this year than they did a year ago.
The decline was not a shock. Community college enrollment spiked eight years ago when the Great Recession eliminated many jobs and people flocked to two-year schools for retraining. As the job market has steadied itself, many of those retrained are now in the work force. This understandably reduces community college numbers.
Enrollment at Mississippi Delta Community College, by the way, was 2,372 for the fall semester - a decline of 4 percent.
University numbers on the rise while community college numbers decline leads to two concerns: Is any of the university growth coming at the expense of less-expensive community colleges? And does rising university enrollment mean that more students will face a problem with excessive debt when they graduate?
Although no one has said that community colleges are losing students to universities, the two trends make the concern inevitable.
The primary goal of any college, two-year or four-year, should be to make sure its students get an education that teaches them to think critically and that prepares them for the 21st century work force. However, the country's trend of rising student debt can no longer be ignored.
Rising enrollments at universities in Mississippi are a good thing. And there are plenty of programs such as Pell Grants that have helped untold numbers of students - at both universities and community colleges.
But coaxing students or families into excessive debt is no way to get young people started on their lifetime of work. Universities in particular must take care to avoid promoting this trap.
The Oxford Eagle on an early childhood education program in the state:
Lee County's Excel By 5 program reached a significant milestone this week when leaders with the group aimed at improving early childhood education announced they will be able to expand program offerings to 400 additional children.
Excel By 5 is a Mississippi program aimed at boosting early childhood education in communities through a number of different ways.
The end goal is to ensure each child in those participating communities has every chance of entering school "happy, healthy and with the skills they need to succeed," as the group's vision statement says.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of a group of community members and various organizations, Lee County was certified as an Excel By 5 early childhood care community last year after a nearly three-year process.
Lee County joins 22 other communities across the state who are certified as being "early-childhood friendly."
Following the group's rigorous certification process, group leaders sought to expand the number of children they reach in Lee County.
With the help of the United Way of Northeast Mississippi and the CREATE Foundation, 300 children age 5 and under already have been receiving free books through the Dolly Parton Foundation's Imagination Library program for more than a year.
Excel By 5 wanted to expand that number to 600 by the end of the year, and eventually, they hope to have every child 5 and under in Lee County participating in Imagination Library.
The program allows children's parents to sign up to receive a free book once per month in the mail with the goal of giving children reading materials so they can develop literacy skills at a young age.
Program leaders announced earlier this week they had secured enough funding to add an additional 400 children to its Imagination Library program.
The group was able to raise more than $10,000 through corporate, civic and individual donations.
With the additional funding, Excel By 5 is now able to serve 700 children on a monthly basis.
This recent achievement is a great one for our community and shows the commitment Lee County places on education - specifically early-childhood education.