Education Services Foundation President and CEO Jim McHale announces the foundation's $50,000 grant to fund Phi Theta Kappa memberships for low income students. Credit: Kate Royals/Mississippi Today

More than 700 low-income community college students across Mississippi will be granted membership to an honor society that provides up to $37 million in scholarships to four-year universities and colleges.

The nonprofit Education Services Foundation on Tuesday announced it is awarding a $50,000 grant to Phi Theta Kappa, an honor society for community and junior college students, to cover their $85 membership costs. Phi Theta Kappa membership will give them access to transfer scholarships for four-year colleges and universities in the state.

Mississippi is the only state where all private and public colleges dedicate transfer scholarships for community college students who are Phi Theta Kappa members, according to Phi Theta Kappa President and CEO Lynn Tincher-Ladner.

Community College Board President Andrea Mayfield said students who are members of Phi Theta Kappa have demonstrated an 85 percent better chance of completing their degree than non-members.

And because many of the state’s community college students are Pell Grant-eligible, the grant will have a “significant” impact, Mayfield said.

To be eligible to receive the scholarship for Phi Theta Kappa membership, students must have 12 hours of credit, a 3.5 GPA and qualify for the Pell Grant, a federal grant for low-income students.

Tincher-Ladner said the 750 students will be selected based on eligibility and recommendations from the advisers on each community college campus.

The median amount of the transfer scholarships is $8,500 per student. For example, a community college student who receives the scholarship could receive up to $8,000 to attend the University of Mississippi while a student set to attend Millsaps College could receive $17,000.

“This grant supports our mission by helping high-achieving community college students complete their associate degrees and transfer to a four-year university and by helping provide these students with leadership skills for success in their college and career paths,” said Jim McHale, president and CEO of Education Services Foundation.

Phi Theta Kappa has 34 chapters on the 15 community college campuses and about 10,000 active members in the state.

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.

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