Joining the special signing event were: (L to R) Keith Reed, Northwest-DeSoto Center Dean; Northwest President Michael Heindl; Lee Caldwell, DeSoto County Supervisor for district four; UM Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks and Rick Gregory, UM Assistant Provost for Regional Campuses and DeSoto Center Director.

Area Colleges Team up to Simplify Degree Completion

Northwest and Ole Miss launch Path4 program at DeSoto Center campus

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – Northwest Mississippi Community College and the University of Mississippi have shared space at the DeSoto Center campus in Southaven for more than 20 years; before that, both institutions offered classes in what is now the Southaven City Hall building off Stateline Road.

This four-decade partnership has helped thousands of DeSoto County residents earn college degrees close to home.

This week, representatives from both schools came together to announce Path4, a new development in their joint model that will offer a seamless four-year college experience and an expanded list of services for students, including financial aid that can be taken advantage of at both institutions.

“We all recognize that education is the way up and the way out,” UM Interim Chancellor Dr. Larry Sparks said.

“We strive for transformative experiences for students who come through our doors, and this expanded program will help those in DeSoto County who have obligations and aspirations to earn a degree and change their life.”

The Path4 initiative was developed by UM and Northwest faculty and staff members looking to give local students a more streamlined journey to a college education as well as a college experience.

Northwest President Dr. Michael Heindl, stressed the importance of college degree completion on the economy of the region.

“We know, and research shows, that students who earn a certificate or degree at the community college will earn more over their lifetimes, and those earnings are multiplied greatly when students earn a bachelor’s degree and other graduate degrees,” he said.

“Many students choose Northwest and Ole Miss to stay in DeSoto County and continue on in their chosen career pathway toward success.”

Although the DeSoto campus does see students who come to take a few courses, the target audience for this new program will be students who are invested in the community and want to stay in DeSoto County while completing their college education, said Dr. Rick Gregory, UM-DeSoto director.

“When developing the program, we looked at how the college experience at the DeSoto Center could help place-bound students be successful academically, socially, emotionally, and allow them to have a fun college experience that will create positive memories they can look back on,” Gregory said.

The group identified one of the largest barriers would be financial aid.

Up until now, students could use their federal financial aid only at one institution at a time. Toward the end of their sophomore or early junior year, many DeSoto Center students may be dual-enrolled at both Northwest and Ole Miss.

The new financial aid consortium agreement signed Thursday by Heindl and Sparks makes it possible for a student to receive federal funds for tuition at both institutions during the same semester while he or she is working toward a degree.

Other selling points of the program include a simplified admissions process and coordinated advising to ensure a smooth path to graduation.

New scholarship opportunities will be available for students, as well as joint student services such as clubs and organizations that all students can take advantage of to gain professional experience and enhance their job opportunities.

“Path4 will be the program that will help students achieve their dreams faster and easier than ever before,” Heindl said.
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