MSHEI expanding to other ‘at-risk’ counties

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — The Mississippi Higher Education Initiative (MSHEI) is receiving more than $119,000 to assist eight counties in the north and central parts of the state considered economically “at risk.”

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) recently awarded a supplemental grant to the Mississippi State University-based initiative. Launched last year in 12 other ARC-designated “distressed” counties, the MSHEI program works to improve access to higher education opportunities and increase the number of students continuing their educations beyond high school.

Added to the initial $339,000 ARC grant provided in 2008, the new funding enables MSHEI’s expansion into Alcorn, Calhoun, Lowndes, Monroe, Oktibbeha, Prentiss, Tippah and Tishomingo counties.

“In the coming months, our staff will be assisting community-based teams in developing proposals for specific projects that address local needs,” said LaNell Kellum. “Winning projects will be awarded sub-grants of $15,000 each for an 18-month period concluding in June 2011.”

Kellum, a staff member with MSU’s John C. Stennis Institute of Government, directs MSHEI, a jointly sponsored program of the Stennis Institute and MSU’s Office of the Vice President for Finance and Administration.

“The message we stress in every locale is ‘You can make a difference in your community,'” Kellum said. The grants are considered as “seed funding” to help local communities develop their own revenue sources to support the programs after the grant ends, she added.

The 2008 ARC grant already has established projects in Chickasaw, Choctaw, Kemper, Noxubee, Webster and Winston counties. In the spring, additional projects will be developed in the remaining ARC “distressed” counties of Benton, Clay, Marshall, Montgomery, Panola and Yalobusha.

“Our goal is to ultimately engage local development agencies in all the counties considered by ARC to be economically ‘distressed’ or ‘at-risk’ in building effective community-school partnerships,” Kellum said.

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