Classes began at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Thursday with record enrollment at more than 10,000, and the college is committed to see both its new students and returning students achieve their academic goals. The college has developed a completion campaign that aligns with a nationwide initiative dedicated to helping students graduate from college with a degree or credential. MGCCC has been recognized annually as one of the Top 100 Associate Degree Producers in the nation, and a 2014 Great College to Work For.
Dr. Susan Scaggs, vice president of Student Services and Enrollment Management, said MGCCC graduates can expect to make at least $4,000 more annually than those with just a high school diploma and $13,000 more than someone with less than a high school education. Additionally, during the past year, more than 2,000 students transferred from MGCCC to a four-year institution, transferring 94,675 hours of college credit to 116 four-year colleges in 44 different states. Nearly three-quarters of those students who earned an associate degree before moving on to a four-year institution graduated with a bachelor’s degree within four years.
“Helping our students understand how graduating or completing their program of study will benefit them is a crucial message the college has to get across immediately,” said Dr. Mary S. Graham, MGCCC president. She said that, as part of the national completion agenda, Gulf Coast has begun a Finish in Four commitment campaign that aggressively addresses the issue of increasing enrollment and keeping students on target to graduate in four semesters. “Studies have found that students who remain engaged and work toward quickly reaching their educational goals are more likely to successfully complete their degrees. Additionally, students who finish in four semesters spend less money and have significantly smaller student loans to pay back, allowing them to begin their careers or continue their education without that added burden.”
Graham said that 65 percent of MGCCC students receive some type of financial support, such as scholarships, loans, and grants, and added that research shows students who finish their degree program quickly and find employment have smaller default rates on student loans. “This impacts our students directly in not only their pocketbook but their credit as well, and it can impact them for many, many years.”
Hitting the ground running this fall, Graham said MGCCC students have been asked to sign a commitment to finishing their degree in four semesters. Faculty, staff and administrators are also making a commitment to help students complete their degrees by providing guidance, advisement and other support services. She said the goal is to double the number of graduates at the college. “Helping our students successfully reach their academic goals is our mission at Gulf Coast,” she said. “The Finish in Four commitment is key to making that success a reality.”