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Pell Grants Open For High School Students At MGCCC, JSU
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A pilot program at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Jackson State University may give more high school students the chance to take college-level classes. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports.

The U.S. Department of Education’s pilot program gives high school students access to federal Pell Grants for college-credit courses for the first time. Forty-four institutions in 23 states are participating.

Carmen Walters is executive vice president of enrollment management and student success at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. She says there are some important benefits for students who take college level classes while in high school. For example, it familiarizes them with the rigor of college work. 

"The earlier you can introduce them to that environment, the better prepared they will be to persist through college," she says. "We know that getting students started earlier plays a huge role in student success and persistence."

The Department of Education says less than 10 percent of children born in the bottom quartile of household incomes will earn a bachelor’s degree by the time they’re 25 years old. That's compared to more than 50 percent in the top quartile.

Walters says dual credit or enrollment classes also allow students to adjust slowly to the college environment by starting out with just a few classes. 

"Versus starting straight out of high school, right into that environment -- you haven't been exposed to how it works, so there's a huge advantage to doing dual credit or dual enrollment classes," she says.

Walters says MGCCC has already started enrolling students in the program, which should continue for about three years. She says that those interested in participating in the fall semester can still register for the semester's second start, which begins Oct. 14.

Jackson State University is also participating in the program. It was the only public, four-year HBCU chosen. Nationwide, an estimated 10,000 students will have access to about $20 million in Pell grants through this pilot program.