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10/18/2017 - Jackson, Miss.

The first diploma awarded through the Complete 2 Compete initiative was presented at a ceremony held today in Jackson. Debra Harris of Grenada received her diploma from the University of Mississippi in a ceremony attended by Governor Phil Bryant, Commissioner of Higher Education Glenn Boyce and University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter.

"Debra's story represents exactly why the Complete 2 Compete initiative was launched," said Dr. Glenn Boyce, Commissioner of Higher Education. "Debra worked hard to complete her courses, but other responsibilities interrupted her plans. Through this program, she has achieved her dream of earning a college degree, which will open doors of new opportunity to her that, without the degree, would have remain closed."

Complete 2 Compete is a statewide program focused on encouraging Mississippi adults who have completed some college, but no degree, to return to college and complete the requirements necessary to earn their degrees. Harris was the first graduate to earn a diploma through the program.

"It was very easy to go through the process," said Harris. "I was thrilled that I was able to earn my degree without taking more classes, since it has been a few years since I had attended Ole Miss. I'm exploring what opportunities are available to me now that I have a degree."

The Complete 2 Compete website, www.msc2c.org, provides information and resources available to help Mississippi adults who have completed some college, but no degree, to return to college and complete the requirements necessary to earn their degrees. Mississippi Public Universities, the Mississippi Community College Board and the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges are partners in the effort and is funded through grants from the Mississippi Department of Human Services and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.

"Complete 2 Compete was designed to help people like Ms. Harris finish what they started and earn their degree," said Governor Phil Bryant. "I am so happy she has fulfilled her dream and wish her the very best as she begins her life as a college graduate."

Harris began her studies at the University of Mississippi in 1977, leaving her studies to serve her country in the United States Navy. Following her military service and starting a family, Harris returned to Ole Miss in 1996, finishing two more years of college before her mother's illness required her to put her dreams of earning a college degree on hold once more. Through the Complete 2 Compete initiative, Harris' transcripts were reviewed, revealing that she had earned the credits necessary to earn a Bachelor of General Studies degree with no additional coursework.

"It is an honor for me to be here today with Debra as she is recognized as the first student in Mississippi to earn a degree through the C2C Initiative," UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. "She is to be commended for her perseverance and hard work in pursuing her college education.  I look forward to seeing what opportunities Debra pursues as a graduate of the University of Mississippi."

There is no cost for submitting information through the C2C website and doing so may help an individual determine how close they are to completing degree requirements. Depending on what programs are needed to satisfy an individual's career and educational interests, the Complete 2 Compete website will match him or her to a list of schools that offer the classes needed to complete a degree.

To date, there have been more than 12,000 visits to the C2C website and almost 3,500 former students have completed applications.

Cutlines for attached photos:

Officials, (l-r) Dr. Tony Ammeter, Dean of General Studies, University of Mississippi; Dr. Noel Wilkin, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of Mississippi; Governor Phil Bryant; Dr. Jeffrey Vitter, Chancellor, University of Mississippi; and Dr. Glenn Boyce, Commissioner of Higher Education, congratulate Debra Harris (center) on receiving the first bachelor's degree through the Complete 2 Compete program.

Governor Phil Bryant presents diploma to Debra Harris, the first graduate to receive a bachelor's degree through the Complete 2 Compete program.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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