January 7, 2017 10:01:05 PM
JACKSON -- A new commitment of $28 million from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation marks a total investment of $42.1 million over 10 years into the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program, a collaborative teacher preparation program at the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University that provides both scholarships and an honors college-type experience for top students.
The new funding, which the universities will split, will sustain the program until 2021 and comes as METP leaders prepare for the program's fifth class of new freshmen.
Meanwhile, METP seniors at both universities, who were recruited into the program's charter class in 2013, are planning to graduate in May and enter Mississippi's teacher workforce for the first time.
"The Hearin Foundation's goal is to improve the economic status of Mississippi," said Laurie H. McRee, a trustee of the Jackson-based foundation. "(We) believe that if you can help raise the level of education, you can raise the economic level of the state, as well.
"It's incredible to see the caliber of (students) the program is attracting. The fact that the universities are working together is just icing on the cake."
"We hope that this provides a template for our state institutions to continue to work together for education, particularly with respect for teacher education," said Alan Perry, a trustee of the Hearin Foundation and a member of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning. "We hope that their example is followed by other institutions across our state."
Enrollment information compiled by the two universities shows a significant uptick in both the number and quality of new college students entering teacher education programs at UM and MSU since 2013, as a result of METP.
"The METP is the culmination of hard work that's been done by the leadership of Mississippi's two largest universities -- normally very spirited rivals -- to come together to address a very critical issue for this state, the future quality of K-12 teaching," MSU President Mark E. Keenum said. "The continuation of this vital partnership shows the confidence that the Hearin Foundation has in our universities to substantially address this need in a transformative way."
The program is designed to attract the best and brightest students from around the nation, and the average ACT score for incoming METP freshmen at both institutions is approximately 30. Today, 146 students from 16 states are members of METP at the two institutions. More than 60 percent of participants come from Mississippi.
"METP is truly a high-impact, high-value investment in the future of our state, and we are very grateful to the Robert M. Hearin Foundation for its continued support," UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. "The METP scholars are exceptionally talented students who, as educators, will transform lives and communities throughout Mississippi."
In 2016, METP also expanded from exclusively training secondary education majors to include elementary and special education majors, as well. UM and MSU expect to admit a combined total of 60 new METP students in August 2017.