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Many high school students dream of attending college after high school, but the process of turning that dream into reality can be daunting, especially for a student whose parents and other family members did not attend college. Learning how to apply for and pay for a college education is an important step in that process. A consortium of Mississippi education leaders are launching a new effort, College Countdown MS, that is designed to help more students apply for and enroll in college after high school.
College Countdown MS is part of a national effort, the American College Application Campaign, that shares the goal of easing the admissions, financial aid and enrollment process for students, particularly first-generation and low-income students, and ensure that they apply to at least one postsecondary institution. Informational meetings and trainings held today in Jackson and on Wednesday in Greenville kick off the campaign in Mississippi. High school counselors and administrators, along with community college and university admissions officers, will participate in the meetings.
“Helping more students graduate from college begins with helping more students enroll in and understand how to pay for college,” said Dr. Glenn Boyce, Commissioner of Higher Education. “College Countdown MS is a great example of collaboration and demonstrates a strong commitment to helping more students get to and succeed in college.”
Partners in College Countdown MS include the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, the Mississippi Community College Board, the Mississippi Department of Education, State Office of Student Financial Aid, the College Knowledge Project, Mississippi Association of College Registrars and Admission Officers (MACRAO), the Get2College Program of Education Services Foundation, and The City of Jackson INYTMI (I Need You To Make it) Youth Initiative. The target areas for 2016-17 include Jackson Public Schools and the Delta.
Some of the activities planned for students include Application Day, Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Days, and College Signing Day, which is designed to replicate the excitement of athletic signing days. Many of the activities will occur during the school day and focus on students who might not otherwise apply to college.
The work in Mississippi will be supported in part by a grant acquired by the Get2College Program of Education Services Foundation from the National College Access Network (NCAN) and announced at today’s training. Get2College competed with 118 cities nationwide on behalf of the city of Jackson, winning a $55,000 grant to increase the FAFSA completion rate in Jackson Public Schools. Get2College will partner with JPS in a city-wide, cross-sector campaign to get seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the first step in acquiring financial aid for college. The FAFSA Challenge Grant is funded by The Kresge Foundation.
“Every year, $3 billion in financial aid is left unclaimed simply because students do not file the FAFSA. We are excited about this grant that will enhance our ongoing work with JPS to help students overcome financial barriers of attending college,” said Jim McHale, CEO and President of the nonprofit Education Services Foundation. “We look forward to partnering with community and church organizations throughout the City of Jackson along with college and university partners to help us grow the college-going culture and show students they do have options for affording college, which provides the pathway to economic success and an enriched quality of life.”
Some of the strategies to be employed for the JPS FAFSA Completion Challenge include creating a college culture, partnering with community groups to create an expectation of college, launching a FAFSA marketing campaign and testing an innovative, remote process for FAFSA completion.
“The Jackson Public School District is committed to working diligently with Get2College and other partners to encourage students to complete the FAFSA,” said Superintendent Dr. Cedrick Gray. “We look forward to promoting and assisting with the FAFSA Completion Days planned as part of the project. This grant will enable us to assist more students as they begin the journey to obtain a college degree towards a prosperous future.”
In support of College Countdown MS, the College Board is giving away two $500 awards as part of their “Pledge your Collegiance” social media campaign. One prize will be given to a student from the Delta and one will be awarded to a student from Jackson Public Schools. The College Board, a mission-driven not-for-profit organization, each year helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success — including the SAT® and the Advanced Placement Program®. For the second year in a row, the College Board sponsored an Instagram video contest where students nationwide submitted more than 400 entries announcing their college choice for a grand prize of $5,000.
“A central tenet of the College Board’s mission is ensuring that all students have access to the opportunities they’ve earned,” said David Gupta, Vice President, Southern Region at The College Board. “This is why we feel College Countdown MS is crucial to helping Mississippi students, not only find the right information to apply to college, but celebrate their achievements on the path to higher learning.”
All of these efforts are designed to help more students understand the process of applying to and paying for college, leading to a more educated citizenry and more prosperous community for all.
“The City of Jackson fully supports this project to get more of our young people enrolled in college and on an academic path to success,” said Jackson Mayor Tony T. Yarber. “Education and economic development go hand-in-hand. Investing in our youth today helps to ensure a brighter future for them and Mississippi’s capital city.”
A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education
In Mississippi, the ten-year time horizon brings Goal 2025 into sharp focus – a policy brief from Lumina Foundation
The need to increase higher education attainment – the percentage of the population that holds a two-year or four-year college degree or other high-quality postsecondary credential – is well understood in Mississippi. As in other states, the economy of Mississippi is increasingly reliant on skills and knowledge that can only be obtained through postsecondary education. More than ever, the state’s residents need those college-level skills and knowledge to realize their own dreams and aspirations.
The most recent Census data (2013) show that 30.5 percent of the state’s 1.5 million working-age adults (those between the ages of 25 and 64) hold a two- or four-year college degree. The state’s rate of higher education attainment is below the national rate of 40 percent. Clearly, much more needs to be done for the state to meet the national goal of 60 percent.