Editorials

A chance to break out of poverty

Students study while waiting for class at the Jefferson Davis campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in 2010. MGCCC is one of only two schools in the state to participate in a federal pilot program that offers Pell grants for high school students to earn college credit.
Students study while waiting for class at the Jefferson Davis campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in 2010. MGCCC is one of only two schools in the state to participate in a federal pilot program that offers Pell grants for high school students to earn college credit. amccoy@sunherald.com File

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College once again is leading the state.

It is one of only two schools, and the only community college, in Mississippi to take advantage of a pilot program that pays for the cost of college classes for high school students.

For the first time in the more than 50 years of the Pell Grant program, the grants are being offered to high school students. And because MGCCC jumped at the chance to be part of the first wave, students in the Coast counties can save money on their college education.

Mississippi is near the bottom of education attainment rankings. Only about one in every five people in the state has a bachelor’s degree or higher. On the Coast, the percentage of people with higher education degrees ranges from 22 percent in Hancock County to a little more than 10 percent in George County.

We need innovative programs to improve that ranking. It’s no secret too many Mississippians live in poverty and too few of those people, roughly one in 10, earn bachelor’s degrees. Higher education is one step toward the middle class for the poorest in Mississippi. This program could give them that chance.

“Innovation is an important underpinning in our efforts to expand college access and increase college completion for our nation’s students,” U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell wrote on the ed.gov website. “We’re thrilled these institutions have joined us in answering the President’s call to reimagine the high school experience and create stronger linkages to college coursework. These sites will help us learn how the availability of Pell Grants impacts participation and success in dual enrollment programs.”

Studies in Texas, Colorado and Oregon have shown students who take college classes in high school are more likely to continue on to college; will spend less time getting a degree; and will receive higher grades in their first year than students who did not take dual-enrollment classes.

That MGCCC is one of only 44 schools nationwide invited into the fledgling program attests to the quality of the school. More than 400 high school students take college courses at MGCCC. We expect that number to increase when low-income students learn about this opportunity.

MGCCC is waiting. Students can still register for the semester’s second start, which is Oct. 14. We urge the Coast’s high school students to check with their guidance counselors to see if they are eligible.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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