Officials recently announced two initiatives at Pearl River Community College’s Hattiesburg campus aimed at attracting and advancing students at the school: the County Assistance Tuition Program and the LPN to RN Bridge Program.
The topics were discussed at the March 1 meeting of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors, after board members gave $125,000 to the assistance program and Forrest Health gave $90,000 to kickstart the bridge program.
Under the County Assistance Tuition Program, which is in its third year, supervisors and officials from the City of Hattiesburg allot money to give students the opportunity to attend PRCC for free for four semesters. The funds help offset the cost of tuition; for example, any tuition that is not covered by scholarships or other means will be taken care of by the program.
The County Assistance Tuition Program is open to any Forrest County resident who recently graduated or received their GED.
“What the board of supervisors has done over the past three years is provide an opportunity to achieve higher education, which is really unprecedented in a lot of areas,” PRCC president Adam Breerwood said. “That’s a testament to their work, a testament to their dedication to their constituents, and a testament to building better communities.”
For more information on the County Assistance Tuition Program, visit www.prcc.eduor call (601) 554-5555.
“First of all, there’s no reason for a student in Forrest County not to be able to go to college, so this is a great opportunity,” said Jana Causey, vice president for Forrest County operations at PRCC. “You don’t have to take a traditional path – if you’re not wanting to go for a four year degree, that’s okay, because we have a ton of opportunities that lead to very high-paying careers.”
The LPN to RN Bridge Program will allow will allow any person with a Licensed Practical Nurse certification to attend PRCC to become a Registered Nurse. Participants should be able to complete the program in one year.
“A lot of people have working families and they become LPNs first, because they need that and it’s a quick way to begin their nursing careers,” said Phyllis Chambers-Berry, chief nursing officer at the hospital. “But this is a quick way to continue to graduate them.
“I myself was an associate’s degree nurse as well, and having the ability to bridge to my PSN, to bridge to my MSN and bridge to my doctorate – those are just great stepping stones. So it’s going to mean a lot to this community.”
PRCC officials will start taking applications for the LPN to Bridge Program in the coming months.
“This partnership is really huge to the Pine Belt,” Causey said. “Of course, there’s a huge nursing shortage in our area, and COVID-19 has made that even more apparent.
“It’s really difficult, in the community college system, to start new programs because we’re already underfunded and we do not like to raise tuition. So when a partner can come forward and offer funding to start a new program ... that makes it to where our students can go to college and we can start programs like this, (that’s great). We believe that this program has a lot of potential to make a really big impact in the Pine Belt.”