• 72°

Complete2Compete raising the bar for Mississippi

Glenn Boyce is on a mission.

The commissioner of higher education has driven from one end of the state to the other meeting with the media, with lawmakers, with anyone who’ll listen to his simple message: Higher education is an investment, not an expense.

And he hopes that’s a message that resonates with the 80 percent of Mississippians who do not have a college or university degree.

Boyce is right. A degree pays off not only in higher pay, but it also helps insulate the degree-holder against the whims of the economy.

He said if the state is going to attract jobs that pay the higher salaries that in turn will boost Mississippi’s economy, it will have to have more people with degrees.

The lowest hanging fruit is the people who may have a degree and not know it. The Institutions of Higher Learning has started the program Complete2Compete to help people who left college before they finished their degree “get across the finish line.”

“This might exponentially change the stats, it could change the data and show the rest of the nation that Mississippi can produce an educated workforce that is of significance,” he said.

In two months, they’ve identified about 100,000 Mississippians who could benefit. Some left community colleges with a degree they didn’t bother applying for because they were going on to a university.

“Then life got in the way,” he said. “They never completed and they never backed up and got their community college degree.”

IHL has a website where former students can have their transcripts reviewed to see if they are close to meeting or have met the requirements for a degree.

Early results are encouraging. About 15,000 have visited the website, 5,000 applied, 120 have received associate degrees and 25 now have bachelor degrees.

We urge anyone who has been to a university to check it out. And if you are close to getting a degree, we urge you to work with IHL to cross that finish line.

— The Sun Herald