Community college system is a key to Calhoun County success

While the Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and the handful of us Southern Miss fans around Calhoun are most vocal when it comes to supporting our respective athletic teams, it’s Mississippi’s community college system that is of greatest importance to this county.

Sixty-five percent of all college freshmen in Mississippi last year were enrolled in community colleges. The numbers are much greater in Calhoun County.
More than 80% of the high school graduates around our county in 2013 enrolled in community college. Based on data compiled by guidance counselors at Bruce, Calhoun City and Vardaman high schools, 75% of the 2014 graduates are going straight to community college.

Joel McNeece

Northwest and ICC are by far the most popular choices again for Calhoun County students, with Northeast and Holmes third and fourth.
Fifteen percent of the Class of 2014 are going straight to senior college. Ole Miss remains the most popular choice among Calhoun students with half of the 20 graduates opting to go straight to the university level choosing Oxford. Four are headed to Mississippi State, two to MUW in Columbus and one each to Blue Mountain, Delta State, Mississippi Valley, and Concordia in Chicago.

Ten percent of the 2014 graduates around Calhoun are not going to a traditional college. Seven percent are enrolling in diesel mechanic, beauty school or going straight into the workplace, while three percent are enlisting in the military.
College isn’t for everybody and there are always numerous examples of people who find great success without a college education, but that’s more often the exception than the rule.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the median of annual earnings for young adults with a bachelor’s degree is $45,000, while those without average less than $30,000.
Income levels in Calhoun County reflect that trend. Data compiled by the CREATE Foundation shows that less than 10% of Calhoun County’s population has a college degree. Among the population over 25 years old, 31% lacks a high school diploma.

It’s then easy to see how the median household income of the county is barely over $30,000.
Calhoun’s unemployment figures compare favorably to the rest of Northeast Mississippi, but our education level comes up short, particularly when it comes to having a highly educated workforce.

We must provide our local schools with the necessary support to produce college-ready students (2013 data showed only Marshall County had a lower ACT average in Northeast Mississippi) and we need to help make the case for better funding for the community college system, which is who catches the bulk of our high school graduates.

Email Joel McNeece at & follow him on Twitter @joelmcneece