Dr. Judy Merritt, president of Jefferson State Community College, spoke to Chilton County Retired Educators on Tuesday afternoon.
Dr. Judy Merritt, president of Jefferson State Community College, spoke to Chilton County Retired Educators on Tuesday afternoon.

Archived Story

Jeff State president lauds Clanton branch for growth

Published 3:56pm Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Chilton County Retired Educators learned a lesson Tuesday about Jefferson State Community College and the growth of its Clanton branch from long-time president, Dr. Judy Merritt.

Merritt said the Chilton-Clanton Center—the newest of the four campuses including Jefferson, Shelby-Hoover and Pell City—is on the cusp of having enough full-time faculty members to be classified as a “campus” instead of a “center.”

Student enrollment at the Chilton-Clanton Center was about 700 in the fall, and about 60 high school students have enrolled in dual enrollment classes over the last three years.

“We don’t know what expansion opportunities we’ll have,” Merritt said with regard to not knowing how much funding the Legislature will allocate to schools this year. “We know that Clanton’s campus is growing and prospering.”

Merritt said she and her colleagues were forced to make a tough decision several years ago when they eliminated athletics at all JSCC campuses because of insufficient funding and lack of attendance at their sporting events.

According to Merritt, JSCC was losing millions of dollars per year in athletics.

“It’s just a very expensive operation to run at the collegiate level,” Merritt said.

Merritt said the school braced itself for a large backlash from parents, students and anyone else with a vested interest in the school’s athletic programs but received only one letter of discontent, letting her know it was the right decision to eliminate the programs and pour all available funding and efforts into educational programs.

“Money is always an issue,” Merritt said. “For the last five years, we have suffered a prorated budget. We’ve been very careful about expenditures because you have to be.”

Merritt said the funding saved from having no athletics can be channeled into educational programs needed at each campus, such as nursing and radiology.

“We produce the most nursing graduates in the state,” Merritt said and added, “All physical therapy students are employed by the time they leave us.”

Retired Educator Don Hand said the addition of a nursing program at the Chilton-Clanton Center in 2012 has helped boost the school’s enrollment.

Students in the first nursing class at the Chilton-Clanton Center will graduate this summer.

The next Chilton County Retired Educators meeting will be July 9.

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