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USA drops plans for Mississippi campus

GAUTIER — The University of South Alabama (USA) has dropped plans to offer classes in Gautier on the campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC).

The announcement was made today by the two schools.

MGCCC entered into a contract in March with USA to rent part of a building on the Jackson County campus for three years.

Since then, questions were 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, located in Mobile, Ala. Pickering later said the contract was valid.

The schools said today that the criticism and questions raise by the decision prompted them to abandon the project.

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) in Hattiesburg had a location at MGCCC’s Gautier campus until August. USM then closed the classroom building, saying it would save about $200,000 annually.

“The proposed satellite campus has been the subject of unanticipated discord within Mississippi,” USA president Gordon Moulton said in the statement. “For this reason, and as a demonstration of good faith, we have decided not to move forward with the Gautier campus at this time, but our door remains open.

“As in the past, we will continue to meet the needs of the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast through our traditional and online programs and by serving as a major provider of degree programs to students who transfer to our campus.”

USA currently enrolls 14,757 students, with 1,533, or about 10 percent, coming from Mississippi, predominantly from the coastal area, Moulton said.

“I am extremely disappointed that USA has decided to suspend their decision to offer classes at our Jackson County campus,” said MGCC president Willis H. Lott. “However, I certainly understand their decision.

“It is unfortunate that some of the leadership in Mississippi have not supported the opportunity to bring bachelor’s degree programs to the people of Jackson County. We look forward to the day that USA offers classes on campus in Gautier.”

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