Holmes, JSU partner to further educational opportunities

Holmes Community College signed a major agreement with Jackson State University Thursday on the Ridgeland Campus to create an academic partnership to increase educational opportunities and degree completion for students.

HCC President Dr. Glenn Boyce; Dr. Don Burnham, vice president of the Ridgeland Campus; JSU President Dr. Carolyn W. Meyers, JSU Provost James C. Renick, and Dr. Priscilla Slade, special assistant to the JSU provost for community colleges, were among those in attendance.

Others on hand included numerous faculty from both institutions and Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee and state Rep. Rita Martinson of Madison.

The memorandum of understanding will allow HCC students to pursue a bachelor’s degree from JSU in selected fields, including elementary education and criminal justice. JSU will provide junior and senior level courses on the campus of HCC, establishing a process for the students to receive a JSU degree without leaving the Ridgeland Campus.

“This is a really special occasion,” Boyce said. “We are very excited about where this relationship and partnership is going to take us. We know we are going to make meaning difference in thousands of students’ lives because of this agreement we are going to sign today so we appreciate that very much.”

Boyce said the agreement is important because of the relationship being built between Holmes and Jackson State University. “Signing a formal document is nice, and it’s a nice agreement that we can all refer to but it’s the relationships we build between each other is what really will make a difference to our cities and state,” said Boyce.

He said the state of Mississippi has an educational goal where by 2025 60 percent of all Mississippi citizens will have a degree of some type or certification. He stressed by doing this not only recent high school graduates will receive a quality education but non-traditional students as well. “We also need to outreach education, every facet we can and reach the market to those who cannot get to us,” Boyce said. “We have to access education in a way that works for them.

“We have a deep understanding at Holmes that they (non-traditional students) have needs that 18-year-olds don’t have,” he added. “We want to bring a university education with a community college foundation closer to these students. We have to reach out to the non-traditionals who had the dream and couldn’t get this done. This partnership will do that.”

Boyce said Holmes and Jackson State have a bond in the fact both institutions have a large number of first-generation college students. “It’s on us to make sure they can navigate our system seamlessly,” he said. Lots of work has been done to improve education and articulation agreements between institutions have played a major role in that process. “All of that work was not afforded to non-traditional students years and years ago,” he added. “This relationship will create that seemless relationship that will allow them to succeed.”

Meyers echoed Boyce’s comments by saying, “We all realize that this is a different landscape, a different world of education. We have in Mississippi a unique opportunity that stands to benefit everybody. Sure this is a worthy challenge. Everybody in the whole state benefits. Educated students make informed decision.”

“This is a commitment to the future of our hometown, our state,” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing. All community colleges and universities have a commonness to serve the students of our state. I know it can work, will work. Getting above a certain age doesn’t limit your dreams and your heart songs of what you want to do and want to explore. I’ve been there and got the t-shirt.”

“We are committed to raise the educational levels of the whole state,” she added. “We want them to have something real and a direct pathway from an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree. I’m so happy and proud of this special, special day. We are investing in the future of the next generation. This is a solid, real investment that we are making. We treasure our relationships with the area community colleges.”

Under the agreement, HCC will provide classroom space and a list of potential graduates and their corresponding degree programs, and both institutions will develop and maintain specific Matriculation Agreements (MAs), outlining courses to be taken at HCC and courses to be taken at JSU. The MA guarantees to the HCC student that the prescribed courses may be used toward a specific degree plan at JSU.