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10/9/2018 - Jackson, Miss.

New data show mostly positive impact of Mississippi’s state-supported student financial aid programs, according to a report released today by Lifetracks, the state's longitudinal data system.   Recipients of the state's three undergraduate grant programs graduate at higher rates than similar students who do not receive state aid, and forgivable loan recipients remain employed in their fields at high rates seven years after degree completion.

Each year, the Mississippi Legislature appropriates nearly $40 million for support of the state’s student financial aid programs.  This investment primarily supports the Mississippi Tuition Assistance Grant (MTAG), the Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant (MESG), and the Higher Education Legislative Plan for Needy Students Grant (HELP).  Although these three undergraduate grant programs were created in the mid-1990s, little analysis has been conducted on the effectiveness or impact of the programs.

"The state makes a significant investment in our state financial aid programs every year," said Jennifer Rogers, Director of the MississippiOffice of Student Financial Aid.  "Before this study, we didn't know how well the investment portfolio was performing."

The Mississippi Office of Student Financial Aid requested the Lifetracks report to learn whether grant recipients experience improved postsecondary outcomes, whether MESG increases in-state enrollment of high-performing students, and how long forgivable loan recipients remain employed in their field.

The report found that state grant recipients in every program—HELP, MTAG, and MESG—experienced significantly higher graduation rates than non-recipients.  College graduates enjoy higher lifetime earnings, better health, and improved quality of life.  First-year employment outcomes were more varied and less significant across the three programs.

  • Of students that received HELP as freshmen, 75.4% graduated within six years, compared to 67.3% of the comparison group.
  • Of students that received MTAG as freshmen, 69.5% graduated within six years, compared to 58.2% of the comparison group.
  • Of students that received MESG as freshmen 86.2% graduated within six years, compared to 70.1% of the comparison group.
  • Of graduates that received MTAG or HELP, 77.8% and 74.2% respectively were employed in Mississippi within one year of graduation, compared to 75.2% and 71.9%of non-recipients.
  • Of graduates that received MESG, 57.7% were employed in Mississippi within one year, compared to 63.9% of non-recipients.

MESG was created as an incentive program to keep the best and brightest students in the state for college and careers.  Unfortunately, the study found that MESG availability does not have a significant effect on overall in-state enrollment.

The state offers forgivable loans to encourage students to pursue majors in fields like education and nursing that experience workforce shortages.  In exchange for financial assistance, students agree to work in Mississippi in a specified field for a certain number of years (typically one year for each year of loan) following graduation.  The study found that 81% of graduates who received a William Winter Teacher/Alternate-Route Teacher Forgivable Loan completed their teaching service obligation, and 73.2% of those completers remained employed as a Mississippi public school teacher five years later.  The data are particularly compelling, because teaching is a field that typically experiences high turnover in the first couple of years.  The William Winter loan may play an important role in the retention of new teachers.  The study found similar results for nursing loan recipients.

"This report doesn't give us a complete picture. It tells us a great deal about how state aid programs contribute to success for students who are already enrolled in college," said Rogers.  "But the report doesn’t tell us much about how state aid impacts access." Additional analysis is needed to determine the impact state aid has on college aspirations and on initial college enrollment.

The Mississippi Office of Student Financial Aid administers all state student financial aid programs, which include undergraduate and graduate grant and forgivable loan programs. Public, private, two-year and four-year college students in Mississippi may be eligible for state aid.

The Director of the Mississippi Office of Student Financial Aid is appointed by the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, which governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.


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