Improve College Affordability in Mississippi

Improve College Affordability in Mississippi

Redesign Mississippi’s Resident Tuition Assistance Grant (MTAG) and Reform the Higher Education Legislative Plan for Needy Students (HELP)

View the full summary (pdf) by HCM Strategists.


Improve college affordability to strengthen Mississippi’s workforce pipeline

Education is the cornerstone of economic mobility in Mississippi. More Mississippians need access to affordable education and training to prepare for in-demand jobs and to expand economic development opportunities in the state. Jobs requiring postsecondary education will continue to grow, yet there is a shortfall in the production of those credentials. Fewer high school students are going directly to college and nearly 200,000 working-aged adults would benefit from earning a credential. Improving college affordability supports the goals of Ascent to 55% and Accelerate MS to increase attainment and transform the state’s workforce.

Investing in state financial aid will spark economic development with a prepared workforce.

Mississippi’s financial aid programs have served students for over 25 years and have largely remained unchanged. Investing an additional $21 million will address key design issues to ensure MTAG keeps pace with the needs of the workforce.

Program Details


Mississippi State Financial Aid Task Force

The Woodward Hines Education Foundation convened a nonpartisan task force in 2022 of 16 education and workforce leaders in Mississippi. The group explored how Mississippi’s student financial aid investments can be best leveraged to meet the economic development needs of the state. They reviewed state and national data exploring the impact of Mississippi’s current student financial aid investments, current and future workforce needs, postsecondary attainment levels, needs of adult and part-time students, and high-growth and in-demand jobs. 

  • Dr. Jay Allen, President, Itawamba Community College; Chair, Education Achievement Council
  • Dr. Philip Bonfanti, Executive Vice President of Student Services and Enrollment, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
  • Dr. Jason Dean, Executive Director, Mississippi Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
  • Ann Hendrick, Director of the Get2College Program, Woodward Hines Education Foundation (retired)
  • Thomas Hudson, President, Jackson State University
  • Dr. Tyrone Jackson, President, Mississippi Delta Community College
  • Dr. Paul McKinney, Director of Financial Aid, Mississippi State University
  • Ryan Miller, Executive Director, Office of Workforce Development (Accelerate MS)
  • Amber Palmer, Complete2Compete Project Manager, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning   
  • Dr. Casey Prestwood, Associate Commissioner for Academic and Student Affairs, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning
  • Dr. Jennifer Rogers, Director, Mississippi Office of Student Financial Aid
  • Kell Smith, Acting Executive Director, Mississippi Community College Board
  • Dr. James Turcotte, Board Chair, Mississippi Postsecondary Education Financial Assistance Board
  • Scott Waller, President, Mississippi Economic Council
  • Apryll Washington, Assistant Director of Policy and Planning, Mississippi Office of Student Financial  Aid
  • Dr. Earl Watkins, Superintendent, Mississippi Achievement School District


The nonpartisan task force was supported by
Lumina Foundation’s Strategy Labs with HCM Strategists providing subject-matter expertise and meeting facilitation support from Dr. Jimmy Clarke, Dr. Nate Johnson, and Dr. Rachelle Sharpe, with analysis support from Dr. Kimberly Hanauer of UnlockED.