By Chris Wilson/Monroe Journal
AMORY – Monroe County will be the first in Northeast Mississippi to expand its community college tuition guarantee program to university studies.
The Gilmore Foundation announced a new initiative called “2 Plus 2″ that will begin in 2012.
The foundation will pay tuition for two fall semesters of studies at Mississippi public universities for Monroe County residents who have already been enrolled in the county’s tuition guarantee program at Itawamba Community College and who have graduated from the community college.
“We can’t put a dollar amount on a higher education and on obtaining a good job,” said Danny Spreitler, the foundation’s executive director.
Under “2 Plus 2,” students would need to pay, or find other aid, for the remainder of their university studies.
The foundation will fund a maximum of 19 hours during those two semesters, and students must have already exhausted all other sources of financial aid.
Students who seek the university tuition funding must be a graduate of one of Monroe County’s high schools: Amory, Aberdeen, Hatley, Smithville, Hamilton or Nettleton (residing within Monroe County). If students earned a GED, they must have lived in Monroe County for five years.
The only other stipulation is that students must remain Monroe County residents while enrolled in their undergraduate program. There are no income requirements or age restrictions.
The Gilmore Foundation was also the first entity in Northeast Mississippi to offer a community college guaranteed tuition program. It announced in 2008 that it would fund four semesters of community college studies.
That program has not only evolved, but it has been copied by 14 other counties in Northeast Mississippi.
Gilmore Foundation Executive Director Danny Spreitler said the community college aid program has been successful in Monroe County.
“There has been a record level for this community of persons getting higher education,” Spreitler said.
Now, Spreitler said the foundation’s board of directors is interested in taking the tuition program to the next level by offering additional higher-ed financial assistance.
Spreitler said the foundation had this idea from the time it first announced its community college plan, but it didn’t want to do too much too quickly.
“We put this on the back burner to allow the community college program to evolve,” he said.
– Further details about the 2 Plus 2 tuition program will be available on the Gilmore Foundation website at www.gilmorefoundation.org beginning May 1.