Foundation connects students with honor societies to increase completion

The Woodward Hines Education Foundation may be focusing on Mississippi—one of the nation’s poorest states—in its quest to help low-income students access and complete post-secondary programs, but the nonprofit believes its strategies could help students nationwide, Inside Philanthropy reports.

Eyeing the resources and accountability associated with participation in honor societies, the foundation gave a $50,000 grant to the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society in order to help students join the society at 15 Mississippi community colleges.

In conjunction with the grant, the nonprofit studied the implications of PTK membership and found that members of the society “were twice as likely as other Mississippi students to finish college and three times as likely to transfer to a four-year school.” Given those results, the nonprofit decided to up its grant to $400,000 and will continue tracking PTK members’ success. The foundation hopes that its partnership with Phi Theta Kappa can be replicated across the country by other funders focused on student success.

Inside Philanthropy points out that students involved with honor societies like Phi Theta Kappa benefit from close engagement with faculty and staff, access to scholarships, and a greater expectation to complete college. In addition, some colleges, such as Jackson State University, offer to cover tuition, textbook, and room and board costs for PTK members.

“At a time when state funding to Mississippi’s 15 community colleges serving 75,000 students is being reduced, it is hard for colleges to move the needle on postsecondary attainment,” Woodward Hines President McHale told Inside Philanthropy. “Our board recognizes that a college degree is a game changer.”

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