MSU, partners developing early college high school

Mississippi's flagship research university is leading a collaborative effort to launch an innovative learning experience for high school students in Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties that is expected to enhance the state's skilled labor assets.

The Golden Triangle Early College High School -- a partnership between East Mississippi Community College, the Mississippi Department of Education and Mississippi State -- will provide opportunities for students to earn college credit while earning a high school diploma at the same time, according to the project's lead manager.

"The program is designed so that students can potentially earn both a high school diploma and an associate's degree in four years," said Myra Pannell, a senior research associate with the Research and Curriculum Unit at MSU.

"Early college high schools give students who may otherwise not have had the chance to attend college an opportunity to earn college credit for transfer to a four-year school or toward a career goal," she said.

Mississippi's college attainment rate lags the national average, but there are a number of efforts underway to close this gap, according to RCU Director Julie Jordan.

"We believe the Golden Triangle Early College High School is going to be another tool to help more Mississippi students move successfully from high school to college and into the workforce," she said.

Administrators from Columbus, Lowndes, Starkville-Oktibbeha and West Point school districts; representatives from EMCC, MDE and MSU; and stakeholders from local industries, including Weyerhaeuser, Cadence Bank and Aurora Flight Sciences, are all working to move the project forward.

"Mississippi State recognizes the value innovative high schools can have on helping better prepare students for college," said David Shaw, the land-grant institution's vice president for research and economic development.

"We also believe in the power of partnerships between local schools, community colleges, universities and industries, and are committed to growing these relationships," he said.

All 8th grade students in the four districts will be eligible to apply, but "the target audience includes students who are first-generation college students and those likely to need additional support to be successful in college, whether it be academic or financial support," Pannell said.

The Golden Triangle Early College High School will be located at EMCC's Golden Triangle campus. Funding sources for it will include but not be limited to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, MDE allocations and additional grant funding.

Over the next few weeks, the Early College High School team will be meeting with local school boards.

"We are excited about sharing more about the many opportunities the Golden Triangle Early College High School will provide students in the area, as well as the impact it can have as a model of excellence for other communities in our state," Jordan said.

For additional information about the early college high school initiative, contact Pannell at or 662-325-3305.

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Jim Laird | Public Affairs

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