MGCCC offers Work in 1 option for high school dropouts

New Transitions Academy blends GED prep with college-level courses

More than 14,000 students leave the K-12 system each year in Mississippi, costing the state economy $458,302,726 in net annual costs.  Only about one-third of those dropouts work or seek work, and those who do earn 27 percent less than high school graduates over their lifetime.  They are 30 percent more likely to use state Medicaid and are 3.5 times more likely to be incarcerated than those who graduate.  Currently, only 60 percent of the state’s ninth graders graduate from high school.  These realities are crippling our state’s workforce and guaranteeing a bottom-rung economy for decades to come. These dropouts are an invisible workforce who, if trained, would make Mississippi competitive in the global economy. *

Enter Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Transitions Academy.  MGCCC, already the single largest GED-awarding institution in the state, will launch the academy this fall providing an opportunity for adults without a high school diploma to simultaneously earn a GED credential and 15 hours of college credit in a career field.  Course offerings include Adult Basic Education (ABE)/GED prep and a choice of either Welding or Early Childhood Development.  The best part: The academy is free for those who qualify.

“The program integrates academic skill development, career advising, work-readiness training, and occupation-specific training through ABE and college-level courses,” said Becky Layton, director of Adult Basic Education. “When they finish the academy in one semester, they will have completed their GED certification, will receive their first semester of college credit in a career or technical program, and will have industry certification that will help them get a job.”

Ingalls Shipbuilding has already committed to offering entry-level jobs to the academy’s successful welding completers.

“Most jobs now require a high school diploma,” Layton said. “And those with diplomas and some college have a better chance at a job and at making a significantly better salary.  Add the industry certification to that, and they will have a much greater potential for success in a career and in life.”

Students must be at least 18 years old and Mississippi residents.  During orientation, students will take the TABE, Compass and CRC assessments and must test out at least a seventh-grade level to enter the academy.  Priority seating in each program will be given to the adults scoring highest on the assessments.  Additionally, students will be required to submit to a drug test and/or a background test if required by the program they choose to enter.

“There are minimum requirements that we have to meet so that we can offer the free academy programs, and because of their short duration, not everyone could complete the program in one semester,” she said. “But we don’t want anyone left out.  Students who do not test at the seventh-grade level can still attend our regular ABE/GED courses and may be eligible for the academy later.”

Beginning in January 2015, Layton said two additional career and technical programs would be offered as part of the academy – Banquet and Catering Services and Business and Office Technology.  She added that a second academy, in Jackson County, is in the plans for next year.

Classes at the West Harrison County Center will begin Aug. 21 and students must be committed to attending classes Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., for the entire semester.

Orientations will be held in July and August. To schedule a date for orientation or for more information, call 228.563.2221 or email


*Statistics come from Mississippi Values campaign/Mississippi Community College Board

Kathy McAdams is an award-winning journalist who has worked at weekly newspapers in Mississippi and the Press-Register in Mobile, Ala. A native of Gulfport, McAdams attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, William Carey University, the University of South Alabama and The University of Southern Mississippi. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and journalism and a master's degree in education and English. She has worked at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College since 2005.