In the last 75 days over 170 people have received degrees as part of the Complete 2 Compete program and now, students who want to finish what they started through the initiative will have some of their financial barriers lifted, thanks to a $3.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Funding provided by the foundation over the next two years will be used for C2C Tuition Assistance Grants that students may use to offset the costs of returning to pursue a degree.
“We are very grateful to the Kellogg Foundation for providing these resources,” said Dr. Glenn Boyce, Commissioner of Higher Education. “These grants will remove the financial roadblock and clear the pathway for former students to pursue their dreams of earning a degree, which will, in turn, open many more doors for them.”
The Complete 2 Compete initiative was launched to provide information and resources to help Mississippi adults who have completed some college, but no degree, to return to college and complete the requirements necessary to earn their degrees. Some former students may be interested in this opportunity but may need some financial assistance.
Funding provided by the Kellogg Foundation will provide 7,000 adults with one-time grants of $500 each. The C2C Tuition Assistance Grants may be used to cover prior debt owed to an institution, preventing re-enrollment, tuition assistance, and textbook costs. The grants will be paid directly to the community college or university to cover the adult learner’s educational debt or expenses.
“We see many more adults now than we do your traditional age student, and with the adults, these folks have work experience under their belt, they have coursework, whether its been in the military, and now through prior learning assessment and competency-based learning, we are able to award credits for work experience that articulate with coursework with military credits,” said Dr. Andrea Mayfield. Executive Director of the Community College Board. “So, this is something that also helps them move along faster if they need additional coursework, but it may be that they have already earned it through their work.”
Mayfield added that the process is easier than the students may think.
“A lot of times people have given up on that dream at that point, they are probably feeling that it’s not even an option anymore,” said Mayfield. “But now with this program, it is an option and it is conceivable because most of the time, people have already earned enough credits to receive the degree and don’t even know it.”
Mayfield said that she wished the program would have been around when she was in school as she dropped out three times before she was able to complete her degree.
“For someone to be able to achieve this lifelong dream of saying, gosh i’m a college graduate that’s something really special, but if they’re also on a career pathway and still working, it also equates to the potential of other career opportunities or increase job wages,” said Mayfield.
The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning and the Mississippi Community College Board have partnered together to identify target groups, implement adult learner services and re-engage adult students to help them complete their degrees. Also supporting the effort are the Governor’s Office, the Mississippi Department of Human Services and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
“Many adults who started a degree but didn’t finish would like to return to college, but they don’t know where to start,” said Dr. Casey Turnage, Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for IHL. “Complete 2 Compete will guide students through the process of returning to college. Thanks to the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, we have the funds to provide adults with one-time grants to assist them in returning to finish their college degrees.”
To be eligible for the grants, a student must be 21 years of age or older; must not have attended a post-secondary institution within the past 24 consecutive months; must meet the FAFSA definition of an independent student; must be able to ear required GPA to earn degree; must not have been disciplinarily dismissed from his or her most recently attended higher education institution. Priority will be given on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Through Complete 2 Compete and with the assistance of the grants provided by the Kellogg Foundation, many Mississippians will be able to earn their degrees.
The Institute of Higher Learning said that C2C will positively impact students’ lives and the lives of their children by bolstering their employability and earnings capacity and that increasing the state’s educational attainment rate will make Mississippi’s workforce more attractive and improve the state economy.