Students on Bench

For Immediate Release: April 27, 2021 

Contact: Kell Smith, 601-432-6734 or 

Mississippi Becomes Fourth State to Allow Access to Federal Financial Aid for Those without a High School Diploma 

In a plan approved by the United States Department of Education (DOE), Mississippi became the fourth state in the nation to allow students without a high school diploma to potentially receive Federal student financial aid for enrolling in eligible career pathway programs at a Mississippi community college. The Mississippi Community College Board (MCCB) submitted its proposed process for Ability to Benefit in October, and approval notification was received on April 21. 

Under the plan, certain students who previously would not qualify for Federal financial aid, including those without a high school diploma or its equivalent, may be eligible for these resources. This includes students enrolled in the Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (MIBEST) program. MIBEST is available at all 15 community colleges and enrolls those without a high school diploma into adult education and career/technical education courses. The result is students have the opportunity to earn a high school equivalency and other postsecondary credential in less time. MIBEST is funded through a partnership between the MCCB and W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Women’s Foundation of Mississippi, and the Mississippi Department of Human Services. 

“I am very appreciative to the DOE for approving our process for Ability to Benefit,” said Dr. Andrea Mayfield Executive Director of the Mississippi Community College Board. “In Mississippi, we have more than 360,000 people without a high school diploma. Oftentimes, these individuals are not able to have resources to improve their educational levels and skills training. By allowing access to Federal financial aid, more people will have the opportunity to better their lives by working with a community college. This benefits everyone.” 

“We could not be more pleased about the approval of the process for Ability to Benefit in Mississippi, and the potential to impact hundreds of thousands more Mississippians without a diploma to access Federal financial aid who otherwise could not enroll or afford community college,” said Paula Sammons, program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation overseeing the MIBEST grant. “Our founder, Will Keith Kellogg, said that education is the best way for truly improving one generation over another, and this is a path that offers the opportunity to do just that.” 

For additional information on the process for Ability to Benefit, please contact the Mississippi Community College Board at either 601-432-6518 or