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That’s according to the interim chair of teacher education at Ole Miss, “I think one of the problems Mississippi faces is the issue with generational poverty, which leads to lower achievement in high school,” says Dr. Susan McClelland.
McClelland has worked in state public schools as a teacher, and has worked at the district level as well.
According to the 2012 census, The State of Mississippi is nearly nine percent behind the national average of bachelor’s degree attainment, and has seven percent more citizens living below the poverty line.
McClelland says that education starts at home with high expectations.
“Parents who don’t set those expectations, [those children are] not going to have the same opportunity to achieve higher education,” says McClelland.
When motivation from home is lacking, teachers can be the changing influence, tells McClelland.
“When you have a teacher that truly believes, I think that’s where teachers are life changing,” says McClelland.
Laura Diven-Brown, director of financial aid at the University of Mississippi, says that while a lot of students are receiving merit based scholarships, she’d like to see more need based funding.
“We have a public service to offer, which is that we want to help educate the citizens of Mississippi,” says Diven-Brown.
She went on to point out, that traditionally, even state grant programs are merit based too.
One of the ways the university is helping students from families with adjusted gross incomes under $30,000 is the Ole Miss Opportunity Scholarship.
It provides a combination of federal, state, institutional and private scholarships to guarantee coverage of base tuition, standard room and board and a meal plan for the year.
This year’s scholarship amounted to $14,272 per person, with next year’s amount rising above $15,000.
Currently 354 students receive The Ole Miss Opportunity Scholarship. The counties with the highest amount of recipients are DeSoto with 34, Hinds and Lafayette with 20, and Panola with 17.
“I think a lot of these students wouldn’t have the opportunity to come here without some of these funds,” says Diven-Brown. “I think in order to change these family dynamics, if you can get someone a college degree, then their children might have a better opportunity to get a college degree too.”
To help these students from an earlier age, McClelland says it’s important to connect education with the community.
“I think the more we study about the needs of impoverished areas, the more effective we can be in educating those children,” says McClelland.
The state government believes the effect poverty has on education can’t be solved by one entity.
Patrice Guilfoyle, director of communications for The Mississippi Department of Education says, “it will take a collaborative effort among various groups to address the impact of poverty on learning, including the MDE, school districts, communities, elected officials and parents.”