GAUTIER — A South Mississippi junior college will ask the Attorney’s General Office for a formal opinion on whether an Alabama college can move a branch to its Gautier campus.
The University of South Alabama (USA) and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) announced a partnership earlier this week that would allow USA to offer classes on campus.
Since then, questions have been raised by some state officials — including Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and State Auditor Stacey Pickering — about whether the move is appropriate and whether MGCCC is providing something free to USA.
MGCCC president Willis Lott said that Attorney General Jim Hood will be asked the same questions about the proposed USA satellite campus.
Pickering had questioned an initial announcement reported that USA would occupy the building rent-free. The building has been a satellite campus of the University of Southern Mississippi, which is moving out this fall.
Lott said that USA won’t pay rent its first year, but will pay to renovate classroom space.
“Actually, this first year they are going to invest over $100,000 in the building so they can have classes,” he said. “It is not a year’s free rent. They are actually investing more than what the rent is going to cost.”
In the second and third years, USA would pay about $66,000 a year in rent, which, he said, is the same deal USM had with the two-year school.
USA’s board of trustees approved the three-year deal March 12, and the community college’s board gave its approval March 17. The agreement still must be approved by the Mississippi Commission on College Accreditation.
Pickering said later in a statement that he had raised the question because of the initial announcement. He said he wanted to review the agreement with USA.
Bryant had expressed concerns about a school from another state locating a branch in Mississippi. While he did not ask MGCCC to reconsider the deal, Bryant wrote, “a decision needs to be made as to what is best for MGCCC’s interests with regard to its financial stability, weighed against allowing an out-of-state institution to have a presence on a Mississippi public institution’s campus.”