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2015 July 28 - 11:25 pm

Kellogg Foundation Funds Miss. Job Training Programs

$6M Grant Targets High School Dropouts for Free Career Training

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s 15 community colleges are getting a $6 million donation to boost education and job training for adults who didn’t graduate from high school.

The grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation runs for three years, with the state pledging to help 1,125 students.

Community college officials have long wanted to add career training alongside high school equivalency degree classes, but haven’t been able to persuade lawmakers to pay for it.

The idea is to provide not only adult education, but career readiness, specific skills training and a semester’s worth of college credits over two years. Colleges would counsel students intensively to help them stay in school, and allow them to start taking other courses before students passed the high school equivalency test.

“This is a lifeline to students who have no high school credential,” said Kenneth Wheatley, who helped the Community College Board apply for the grant.

The training will be free, at least until students begin earning college credits. After that, most are likely to qualify for federal financial aid.

The program, to be called Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training, is modeled after a program implemented in Washington state. There, studies have found that students who go through the program are more likely to earn college credit and a certificate or degree.

Other states have copied the program, and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Hinds Community College and others have been piloting efforts in Mississippi.

According to Census figures, 18.5 percent of Mississippians older than 25 did not complete high school, among the poorest rates in the nation. That number nationwide is 14 percent. Only 55 percent of non-institutionalized Mississippians older than 16 are in the labor force, the lowest share in the nation.

“Our desire with this particular grant was to have all 15 colleges work together to create a program that reaches young mothers and young fathers and ties them to opportunities in Mississippi,” said William Buster, who leads Mississippi and New Orleans operations for Kellogg Foundation.

“What we have to do is bring more of these adults who should be in the workforce up to a level where they qualify for middle-skills jobs,” said Colleen Hartfield, vice president for community relations and government affairs at Hinds.

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