WHEF Announces $1 Million Grant Opportunity

The Woodward Hines Education Foundation (WHEF) has opened applications for a four-year, million-dollar grant opportunity in support of Mississippi’s newly established postsecondary attainment goal.

WHEF is an endowed Mississippi non-profit organization that has focused its efforts on promoting greater postsecondary access for more than 25 years. In 2016, WHEF expanded its mission to support improved persistence and completion outcomes for all Mississippi college students that lead to jobs providing individuals with family-sustaining wages.

Now, WHEF is seeking proposals from Mississippi organizations to identify a single grantee to coordinate the work needed for the state to reach the Ascent to 55% Statewide Attainment Goal.

In October 2020, Mississippi’s Education Achievement Council (EAC) passed a resolution to adopt a postsecondary attainment goal for the state of Mississippi. In that resolution, they established two goals:

By 2030, Mississippi will increase the postsecondary attainment of its workforce to 55%.

By 2035, Mississippi will increase the postsecondary attainment of its workforce to 60%.

“The Education Achievement Council believes that Ascent to 55% will serve as a North Star for Mississippi by aligning the practices and priorities of K-12 education, higher education, and business and industry,” said EAC Chair and Itawamba Community College President Dr. Jay Allen.

Dr. Allen continued, “On behalf of the EAC, we are excited to support this goal, but also know that Ascent to 55% will not be successful if it is our goal alone. Achieving a goal of this scale will require a commitment from parents, students, educators, community and state leaders, elected officials, and representatives from business and industry. We invite you to join us in creating a better, brighter Mississippi.”

“According to Georgetown University, it is estimated that 70% of all jobs will require some kind of postsecondary education. Currently, Mississippi sits at 44.4%,” said WHEF President and CEO Jim McHale. “In order to improve the lives of Mississippians and to strengthen our state’s economy, there is a critical need to not only have more students enroll in college, but to have them successfully complete their degree or credential.”

A competitive request for proposals process opened on August 8, 2021. An informational webinar for interested organizations will be hosted by WHEF on Monday, August 23 at 10 a.m. CST.  Applications are due Thursday, September 30th, and final decisions will be announced in December 2021.

“While increasing postsecondary educational attainment in the state is the responsibility of all Mississippi stakeholders, the selected organization will lead in the coordination of this effort,” said WHEF Program Officer Shanell Watson.

To obtain the official RFP, interested applicants may visit woodwardhines.org/ascent. Questions about eligibility, the application process, or project components may be emailed to AscentTo55@woodwardhines.org.  

About Woodward Hines Education Foundation

The Woodward Hines Education Foundation (WHEF) is committed to helping more Mississippians obtain postsecondary credentials, college certifications, and degrees that lead to meaningful employment.

Since its inception, WHEF has worked to increase college access and entry for young people in Mississippi and has expanded that work to support promising practices that lead to college persistence and completion. The foundation envisions a Mississippi where all people can secure the training and education beyond high school that will allow them to advance their quality of life, strengthen their communities, and contribute to a vibrant and prosperous future for the state.

About Mississippi Education Achievement Council

The Education Achievement Council was established by the Mississippi Legislature in 2010 for the purpose of sustaining attention to the state's goal of increasing the educational attainment and skill levels of the state's working-age population benchmark to the national average by 2025. The Council members are representatives of state government, public K-12 leaders, public, private and proprietary higher education officials and business community leaders. The Council is currently led by Dr. Jay Allen, President of Itawamba Community College.