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MIBEST helps Mississippians receive degrees free of charge

The Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training, or MIBEST is working to allow high school drop outs who want to earn a degree but don’t have the money or resources the opportunity to receive an education.

The program was initially started after the W.K. Kellogg foundation gave them a $6 Million grant.

“It’s special because it allows high school dropouts to enroll in college, to simultaneously earn their high school equivalency and a certificate or a degree,” said Dr. Andrea Mayfield Executive Director of the Mississippi Community College board.

MIBEST is offered at all 15 community colleges in the state.

Mayfield said that in as little as a year they have had over 15,000 students go through the program, over 4,000 credentials given and over 1,100 industry related credentials.

“We have had hundreds of people who have been able to progress from unemployment to employment in their field on their career pathway,” said Mayfield. “You hear testimonials from students all the time where a single mother with four children who worked as a waitress for a while, but that wasn’t enough to sustain their family, she was able to go through the program and get started in her career and make a difference.”

She said that often times the program sees individuals who are 50+ years old and looking for a career who want to get their high school diploma.

Mayfield added that people wanting to join the military often go through MIBEST to help them with their military application, and that they also see individuals from other countries coming into the program.

“We do know that the cost of the economy is over $450 Million for high school drop outs in Mississippi and we are working to get some legislative funding for it,” said Mayfield. “We’re asking for $11 Million and we know the cost to not having the program is over $458 Million. We are just trying to make a difference, provide people with better quality of life and help the states economy too.”

Mayfield said that the best part about the program is that it’s free to the students.

“If a student needs money for gas to get to college, if they need some addition help with childcare so that they can go to school, any of those things, the colleges have navigators that help the students navigate their resources so that they have what they need to go to school,” said Mayfield

She said that the planning process for MIBEST initially began in 2015, and that it officially started in early 2017. She added that MIBEST is unique to Mississippi, however she said that Washington state has something similar called IBEST but that those are the only two states with this type of program.

“They’re moving from the dependency side to the independent side and their quality of life improves and so does the economy,” said Mayfield.

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