Bristow: Loss of $1.8M curtails plans in Natchez

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 12, 2000

Clinton Bristow feels like a student who failed a class and doesn’t know why.

Bristow, president of Alcorn State University, is working to revamp the college’s plans for $1.8 million in state funds the college intended to use for new academic programs and marketing.

Last week, a federal judge denied historically black schools Alcorn and Mississippi Valley State the $3.5 million in Legislature-appropriated funds because he said the money was not being spent for programs he ordered to promote white student enrollment. Funding for a $9.5 million business school at the Natchez campus is safe, however.

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&uot;That’s just like a student in class,&uot; Bristow said. &uot;When the professor gives you a syllabus and you turn in all of the homework and make As on all of the tests. You do all of that and then you fail the class.&uot;

In this case, Bristow said, Alcorn officials thought they had done their homework.

Their plans for the $1.8 million were to create more nursing courses at Alcorn’s Natchez campus, specifically focusing on geriatric care; to add courses in computer networking to the campus in Vicksburg; and to focus on pre-professional programs at the Lorman campus.

&uot;What we would become is a feeder school for Ole Miss and Mississippi State,&uot; Bristow said. &uot;A student in southwest Mississippi could stay home for undergraduate school&uot; before going on to graduate school, he said.

The school also wanted to increase its marketing efforts to target white students.

&uot;If we’re going to attract (white students), we need to let them know we exist,&uot; Bristow said. &uot;They know about Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Now we have to tell them about Alcorn.&uot;

To secure the funding in the first place, Alcorn officials hired consultants who helped them develop the plans for added programs and marketing efforts; had the plan approved by the school’s governing board; and took it to the Legislature for its approval.

&uot;Even in a tight budget year (the Legislature) approved the money,&uot; Bristow said.

Bristow said the next step for the university is to consult with its governing board and take another detailed plan to U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers.

But even with a more detailed plan, Bristow does not have a guarantee that Alcorn will ever see that $1.8 million.

Despite the frustration, Bristow said he is optimistic about the chance for getting the funding. &uot;I’m ‘bloody but unbowed,’&uot; he said.