Pearl River and city of Hattiesburg enter into historic agreement
By Alexx Kennedy
PRCC Public Relations
HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Pearl River Community College, the City of Hattiesburg and Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District, Inc. entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Wednesday to offer tuition assistance to Hattiesburg residents.
“Financial challenges often provide insurmountable obstacles for many of our potential students,” PRCC President Dr. Adam Breerwood said. “The Memorandum of Understanding that we’ve finalized this morning will assist in alleviating those obstacles. This opportunity will turn walls into windows for our students. While our nation recovers from the enormity of a global pandemic and economic turmoil, Mayor Barker and the Hattiesburg City Council have recognized in the midst of difficulty lies remarkable opportunity.”
The MOU promotes higher education opportunities at Pearl River for eligible participants who reside in the City of Hattiesburg. It will be paid for from the city’s CARES Act reimbursement and continues the 2018 City Tuition Assistance Program (CTAP) for recent high school graduates. The 2021 annual allocation also contains funding for an Outstanding Balance Assistance Program, Career Technology Education Tuition Assistance Allied Health Tuition Assistance and Pine Belt Works Basic Manufacturing Tuition Assistance. It also will provide Work Keys Testing (NCRT) for Hattiesburg High students.
“We know COVID-19 has dealt economic hardship to many in our community,” Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker said. “It makes sense for us to use some of the city’s pandemic-related reimbursements to invest in our citizens who are making the effort to retool, acquire new skills and begin new careers to provide for themselves and their families. We’re grateful to the efforts and leadership of PRCC to continue this partnership and look forward to the opportunities it will provide for our residents.”
The PRCC CTAP will provide tuition for four consecutive semesters of higher education at Pearl River. Through the CTAP program, applicants may pursue any degree or certificate offered at PRCC.
High School Equivalency (HSE) certificate recipients that are residents of the City of Hattiesburg are also eligible. These students must matriculate into the credit bearing classes during the semester immediately following the completion of the HSE certificate or the very next semester when the desired program is scheduled to begin.
“We are grateful to Mayor Toby Barker and the Hattiesburg City Council for providing this opportunity to Pearl River Students who reside in the City of Hattiesburg,” Vice President for Forrest County Center, Allied Health, and Nursing Programs Dr. Jana Causey said. ”Financial barriers are the most common challenges facing our students and this money will reduce or remove that obstacle for many. As a result, the city of Hattiesburg will reap the benefit of increasing the skilled workforce pertaining to many underserved employment areas.”
Non-tuition related expenses such as supplies, books, fees and room and board are not included in the tuition assistance program.
OUTSTANDING BALANCE ASSISTANCE
Due to the impacts of COVID-19 on the Hattiesburg community, the Tuition Assistance Program will be expanded to include assistance for outstanding tuition balance created by the impacts of COVID-19. This initiative will give students the ability to move forward with their education unencumbered by additional financial burdens.
COVID-19 has created an enormous need for medical professionals such as nurses and respiratory technicians. This tuition assistance is intended to relieve both financial burden from students interested in pursuing a career in this field and alleviate a deficit in qualified caregivers.
Pearl River’s Forrest County Campus houses nine medical programs. These include practical nursing, surgical technician, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy assistants, physical therapy assistants, dental assistant, dental hygiene, medical lab technology, and medical radiology.
To support these programs, the college has recently built a state-of-the-art simulations lab. The lab is to be utilized by all Allied Health programs and offer environments that realistically mimic hospitals and clinics. Programs that work together in medical environments now have the ability to experience that integrated workspace in a simulated space, better preparing them for the expectations of their future employers.
CAREER TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION
In addition to medical programs, the FCC offers several manufacturing and technology-based programs. These include biomedical equipment repair, electronic engineering technology, industrial technology, precision machining and manufacturing, welding, and HVAC. These programs work closely with local industries to design their labs and align the curriculums to ensure that students will have the skills needed to be placed into a career with high earning potential.
Providing tuition assistance for students entering these career fields allows for local industry to benefit from an emerging qualified workforce.
In addition to the hands-on experience students receive in these classes and labs, many students have the opportunity to put their skills to practice by participating in paid internships with local manufacturers.
PINE BELT WORKS BASIC MANUFACTURING
Pine Belt Works, offered at the PRCC Woodall Center, provides students with a 96-hour foundation in Basic Manufacturing Skills, allowing graduates to enter a sustainable-wage career pathway in Manufacturing. They earn credentials in First Aid/CPR, OSHA 10-hour safety, a Career Readiness Certificate, the Basic Manufacturing credential, and learn key concepts like precision measurement, lean manufacturing processes, quality, problem-solving, and work-ready skills. Employers looking to hire Pine Belt Works graduates include Sofidel, Kohler Engines, Hood Industries, Super Stud Steel Building Products, Western Container, Wis Pak, Dews Foundry, Johnson Controls, and many others.
Those interested should complete the interest form at www.prcc.edu/pinebeltworks.
Individuals interested in earning the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) may register to take the three-part ACT Workkeys exam through PRCC’s workforce education department. The assessment includes three areas of focus including Graphic Literacy, Applied Math, and Workplace Documents. Several local employers, including Berry Global, Sofidel, and others, utilize the career readiness measure as a pre-employment tool. A great boost to professional resumes, test-takers may earn a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum level NCRC.
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