Southwest Tennessee Community College

For Immediate Release

Date: November 18, 2008

For More Information: Brenda Rayner, 901-333-4247


Southwest Tennessee Community College Hosts Members of the Shelby County Legislative Delegation

Members of the State Legislature recently met with Dr. Nathan L. Essex, president of Southwest Tennessee Community College, and other college officials during a special luncheon on October 31. President Essex briefed the delegation on the college's recent successes as well as its priorities for the coming year. Attending the meeting were Senators Beverly Robinson Marrero, Ophelia Ford, Mark Norris, and Reginald Tate as well as Representatives Karen Camper, Jeanne D. Richardson, G A Hardaway, and Speaker Pro Tem Lois DeBerry.

President Essex began by updating the delegation on the ongoing campaign to erect a new Nursing, Natural Sciences and Biotechnology building – emphasizing the $2 million pledge by corporate giant FedEx, the largest gift in Southwest's history. He also informed them that, because of the college's success with raising private dollars, Southwest was able to move from number 16 to number two on the Tennessee Board of Regents' (TBR's) capital outlay request. This was accomplished due to a pilot match program that TBR had implemented to provide incentives to colleges to raise more private dollars. Under the match program, if a college raised at least 15 percent of the total project costs, their project could be advanced on TBR's capital outlay request from the state.

TBR Vice Chancellor David Gregory attended and, according to Sherman Greer, executive director of government relations at Southwest, "he informed the delegation that Southwest was the only college in the TBR system to achieve that match and he emphasized how significant that was for a community college." Capital outlay projects include all projects for which the primary objective is expansion of buildings by adding new construction, and renovations involving extensive changes in functional use.

Also discussed were Southwest's efforts to acquire the land to construct the nursing school. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) are currently conducting an environmental assessment of the area to determine an estimate of the possible cleanup costs. Other related issues on the table were the extensive number of students on the waiting list for entry into Southwest's nursing program and the shortage of workers in the fields of nursing and allied health sciences for the immediate area. The Nursing Institute of the Mid-South shows Shelby County with a current shortage of 720-plus nurses and more than 800 lab technicians.

President Essex took the opportunity to highlight Southwest's enrollment which is up 8.8 percent – 11,445 compared to 10,515 last year. He also discussed new buildings currently being constructed or sought that will aid in increasing enrollment and better serve the Mid-South: the Maxine A. Smith Center; the new library as well as the new academic building on the Macon Cove Campus; and the progress toward building a new Fayette County Site.

TBR Vice Chancellor Gregory discussed several issues including enrollment increases for community colleges statewide, the 6 percent tuition increase for 2008-09, budget reductions/reversions, Tennessee Lottery revenues, and possible revisions that would expand the lottery to include individuals over 25 years of age who have an income of $36,000 or less. This would apply to working adults who have been out of college for two or more years.

Also attending the meeting were Southwest Foundation Board Chair Cato Johnson; Memphis City Schools Associate General Counsel Van Turner; Southwest Provost/Executive Vice President Joanne Bassett and Southwest Vice President of Institutional Advancement Karen Nippert.

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Cutline: Memphis City Schools Associate General Counsel Van Turner; Mary Vines, director of nursing for Southwest (tour guide); Sen. Mark Norris; Rep. Lois DeBerry; Sen. Ophelia Ford; Rep. Karen Camper; and Sen. Beverly Robinson Marrero tour the current nursing facility.