Skip Navigation

College Spotlight: Rust College


A happy family receives the keys to their new home from Rust College President David L. Beckley.
A happy family receives the keys to their new home from Rust College President David L. Beckley.

New homes, practical classes improve lives

In 2003, Rust College saw a need for housing revitalization in its city of Holly Springs, Miss. Leaders at Rust, the oldest of United Methodism's 11 historically black colleges and universities, wanted to transform the area into a vibrant, self-sustaining community. In order to pursue that dream, they founded the Rust College Community Development Corporation.

At first, the organization sought to rehabilitate existing homes. Members soon found many homes were beyond repair, so the organization switched to building new homes.

"We changed our strategy first by partnering with other local organizations such as the Mississippi Home Builders Association," said Clencie L. Cotton, director of the development corporation, "Second, we turned to new sources for additional funding, including two grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development."

The corporation built 11 new homes. Along with being nicer and safer than the demolished houses, the homes are more economically and environmentally viable.

"The city provided the street, electricity and water," Cotton said, "while we built the homes. We worked with the utility company and other partners in the area to build homes that would use less energy and save money in electricity and heating. We're now committed to building four more houses in the area."

The corporation also provides education and new opportunities to homeowners through homebuyer education and counseling programs. Another agency administers some of the classes, but people associated with the college, including Cotton, offer financial literacy education to applicants.

When he first heard about the plan, Larry Martin was skeptical. Now a new homeowner, he says, "It is such a blessing to get a new house. Most people never experience such a thing. RCCDC worked so hard to make these places strong and suitable for living."

The Rev. Richard J. Peck, adapted from a story by Phillip Brooks.