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PRCC president discusses school affordability in his State of the College

The Pearl River Community College President’s State of the College speech emphasized the school’s increased enrollment and focus on making school affordable.

PRCC President Dr. Adam Breerwood said that since he began in 2017, the college has focused on becoming more efficient and offering affordable education.

“Every single day we’re trying to change the lives of the people we serve,” said Breerwood.

College enrollment has been in decline across the nation, said Breerwood, which leads institutions to increase the cost of tuition. The average tuition cost at institutes for higher learning in the state has increased by 71 percent since 2009, said Breerwood.

However, PRCC’s tuition has remained the same for the last three school years and the school increased the amount of institutional scholarships it gives out by $1.6 million in those same three years. In the 2019 fiscal year, the school spent $3.8 million on institutional scholarships and that number increased to more than $4.6 million in the 2020 fiscal year, said Breerwood.

To fund those additional scholarships, the school worked to become more efficient—including eliminating 19 staff positions, allocated money from other parts of its budget, worked with industry partners and received help from the Forrest County Board of Supervisors, said Breerwood.

The school has also seen a 20.9 percent increase in student enrollment from the 2017 to 2018 school year to the 2019 to 2020 school year. For fall 2019, the school had 5,374 students enrolled. The majority of those students, 97 percent, are county residents.

Along with freezing tuition costs and increasing the scholarships available, the school invested in marketing and embraced online courses, said Breerwood.

The school has invested in its minimum wage employees by raising all employees’ wages to a minimum of $10 an hour, said Breerwood. For the 2020 fiscal year, the college budgeted $21.7 million on payroll out of its $41 million budget. Spending on the school’s employees benefits the local economy because 218 of the school’s employees are county residents, said Breerwood.