JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Leaders of Mississippi's universities and community colleges say as many as 67,000 Mississippians who never graduated may have passed enough courses for a degree.
They announced a plan Thursday to encourage those people to obtain degrees, as well as another 200,000 who dropped out short of the needed classwork over the last 15 years.
"What we want to do is help these students go back and finish what they started," Gov. Phil Bryant said as the Complete 2 Compete program was announced. He said a better-qualified workforce would help the state's economy and raise incomes.
Census figures show 29 percent of Mississippians older than 25 have a two-year or four-year college degree, but another 23 percent attended college and never earned a degree.
The state plans to use federal workforce money and grants to pay an estimated $1.5 million cost, but Bryant said students could have to pay for additional classes.
Officials plan to focus immediately awarding degrees without additional coursework. That includes more than 57,000 people who have 60 credit hours for an associate's degree and more than 10,000 people who have 120 credits for a bachelor's degree. Community colleges would grant associate's degrees to people who earned enough credits for a two-year diploma but left short of a four-year diploma.
In some cases, people may not have the right classes, but Higher Education Commissioner Glenn Boyce said institutions may offer degrees with fewer requirements.
The effort would then focus on encouraging people without enough credits to finish.