Mississippi may be known as the Magnolia State, but it should be known as a state that takes care of its students who want to attend college.

In fact, the state of Mississippi and the Mississippi Office of Student Financial Aid offer five major scholarships and grants to its resident high school graduates and colleges students to help them make affording to attend college a reality.

Those financial aid programs include the Higher Education Legislative Plan, the Mississippi Tuition Assistance Grant, the Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant, the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers and Firemen Scholarship and the Nissan Scholarship.

General Eligibility Requirements for All Programs

There are a few general eligibility requirements all students must meet in order to be awarded with the financial aid from these Mississippi programs. To be deemed eligible, a student must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen (or eligible non-citizen),
  • Be a legal Mississippi resident for at least one year prior to submitting an application,
  • Not have a criminal record (misdemeanor traffic violations are the exceptions to the rule),
  • Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a full-time undergrad student at an eligible Mississippi postsecondary institution pursuing a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree for the first time,
  • Complete any online application and submit the required supporting documents before the deadline for any of the programs, and
  • Not be in default on a federal or state educational loan or owe a repayment on a federal or state grant.

One other thing applicants should keep in mind about all these Mississippi financial aid programs is the funds are not eligible to be used for summer terms.

Higher Education Legislative Plan

The Higher Education Legislative Plan (HELP) is designed to help lower-income Mississippi students with tuition assistance at eligible Mississippi schools. The program is meant to be given to students who are not also receiving any other financial aid from other outside sources.

For graduating Mississippi high school seniors attending college the following term, there are specific eligibility requirements that need to be met including:

  • Graduating high school with a cumulative 2.50 GPA on a 4.00 scale;
  • Scoring a minimum of 20 on the ACT;
  • Completing a specific high school curriculum (HELP curriculum)
    • This includes 17.5 units of high school coursework in the college preparation curriculum approved by the Board of Trustees of State Higher Learning Institutions plus one unit of art from the approved Mississippi Department of Education Arts, Visual and Performing Arts and one additional advanced elective unit which may include Foreign Language II;
  • Meeting income limitations
    • The applicant’s family must have an annual adjusted gross income of $42,500 or less;
  • Completing and filing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and be federal Pell-Grant eligible;
  • Being enrolled full-time at an approved Mississippi postsecondary institution; and
  • Completing the official HELP application and submitting the required supporting documents
    • The supporting documents include residency documents (FAFSA and Mississippi driver’s license), income documents (FAFSA and household verification worksheet) and academic documents (high school counselor must certify completion of the HELP curriculum).

An eligible student and/or recipient must complete a renewal application for every academic year. To stay eligible while in college to receive HELP funding, a student must meet the initial eligibility requirements, as well as:

  • Maintain a minimum 2.50 GPA in college,
  • Enroll full-time and maintain full-time enrollment each semester.
    • Full-time is considered as taking 15 credit hours per semester or 9 credit hours per trimester.

If a student who attends a public Mississippi postsecondary institution is chosen as a recipient of HELP funding, they’ll receive aid for tuition and required fees. If a student attends a private Mississippi postsecondary institution, they’ll receive an equivalent award amount equal to the award of a student attending the nearest comparable public institution.

An eligible recipient can receive aid for up to eight semesters (or 12 trimesters) or until they complete their bachelor’s degree.

Mississippi Tuition Assistance Grant

The Mississippi Tuition Assistance Grant (MTAG) is a grant designed to assist Mississippi residents looking to attend an in-state, not-for-profit, 2-year or 4-year postsecondary institution who are not already receiving federal need-based aid.

To receive this state financial aid, a student must be continuously enrolled full-time as an undergraduate student at an eligible Mississippi postsecondary institution.

Additionally, a student needs to meet the following criteria to be able to receive the MTAG:

  • Graduate from a Mississippi high school,
  • Receive a minimum, cumulative 2.50 GPA on a 4.00 scale in high school,
  • Score at least a 15 on the ACT OR
    • score a 720 on the old SAT reading and math portions OR
    • score a 1060 on the old SAT math, reading and writing portions OR
    • score an 810 on the new SAT,
  • Not be financially eligible to receive a federal Pell Grant,
  • Complete a Mississippi financial aid application on or before September 15 during the fall of the aid year for which the student is seeking assistance, and
  • Complete a MTAG application and submit all supporting documents before the MTAG deadline date.

The MTAG application must be renewed yearly if a student wishes to continue to receive funding from the program. All the eligibility requirements remain the same for students in college, except a college student must maintain a minimum, cumulative 2.50 GPA on at least 12 completed credit hours.

Freshmen and sophomores in college can receive up to $500 per academic year from the MTAG. Juniors and seniors can receive up to $1,000 per academic year from the MTAG. Students are eligible to receive MTAG funding for up to eight semesters (or 12 trimesters) or until their degree has been completed.

Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant

The Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant (MESG) was created to financially support high-achieving Mississippi high school graduates who wish to attend an in-state postsecondary institution after high school. Academically, this is one of the most competitive financial aid programs in Mississippi.

To be specifically eligible for the MESG, a student must:

  • Graduate high school with a minimum, cumulative 3.50 GPA on a 4.00 scale,
  • Score a minimum 29 on the ACT, OR
    • Score a 1350 on the SAT, OR
    • Be named a semi-finalist or finalist for the National Merit Scholarship or the National Achievement Scholarship,
  • Be enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student at an eligible Mississippi postsecondary institution,
  • Complete the MESG application and submit all supporting documents by the deadline.

It’s also required to renew a student’s MESG application yearly in order to continue to receive MESG funding. To continue to be eligible for the grant, a student must continue to maintain a minimum, cumulative 3.50 GPA in college on at least 12 completed credit hours per semester.

If a student is selected to receive the MESG, they’ll receive up to $2,500 per academic year, but the award may not exceed the amount of the college’s tuition and/or fees. A student can receive MESG funding for up to eight semesters (or 12 trimesters) or until they’ve completed their degree.

Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers and Firemen Scholarship

The Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers and Firemen Scholarship (LAW) is a scholarship program designed to help children or spouses of fallen or permanently injured law enforcement officers or firefighters afford to attend college; Alabama also has a similar program in place.

To be eligible for Mississippi’s LAW scholarship, a student must:

  • Be certified as a dependent child (someone who is less than 23 years old) or a spouse of any Mississippi law enforcement officer or full-time or volunteer firefighter who has suffered fatal injuries or become permanently/totally disabled because of line-of-duty injuries,
  • Be enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student at any eligible, public Mississippi postsecondary institution, and
  • Complete the LAW application and submit all supporting documents before the deadline.
    • Supporting documents for LAW include:
      • Birth certificate or proof of adoption for children or marriage license for spouses of law enforcement officers or firefighters.
      • If the officer or firefighter is disabled:
        • A letter from the officer’s or firefighter’s former supervisor/employer stating whether the officer or firefighter is disabled from line-of-duty injuries,
        • A statement from the officer’s or firefighter’s physician stating the officer or firefighter is disabled from line-of-duty injuries,
        • Verification from the Public Employees’ Retirement System, and
        • Verification from the Social Security Administration.
      • If the officer or firefighter has died:
        • A letter from the officer’s or firefighter’s former supervisor/employer stating whether the officer or firefighter suffered fatal line-of-duty injuries, and
        • A death certificate.

The LAW scholarship application must be renewed yearly as well. To continue to be eligible to receive funding from it, a student must maintain a minimum, cumulative 2.50 GPA during each term and maintain full-time enrollment (15 credit hours per semester or 9 credit hours per trimester).

If a student is selected to receive the LAW scholarship, they’ll have their yearly cost of tuition and fees and the average cost of campus housing at the eligible institution covered by the award. A student can receive LAW funding for up to eight semesters or until the student has completed their bachelor’s degree.

Nissan Scholarship

The Nissan Scholarship (NISS) is a scholarship program funded by Nissan North America—yes, the car company—to help freshmen attending college for the first time at an eligible, public Mississippi 2-year or 4-year postsecondary institution afford tuition.

To be eligible for the Nissan Scholarship , a student must:

  • Be graduating from a Mississippi high school in the current year,
  • Have a minimum, cumulative 2.50 GPA after a minimum of seven high school semesters,
  • Score a minimum 20 on the ACT OR a 940 on the SAT during a national test,
  • Be enrolled full-time at a public Mississippi postsecondary institution in an eligible degree program,
  • Demonstrate leadership abilities through participation in extracurricular activities,
  • Complete and file FAFSA and show financial need for funding,
  • Write and sign a brief essay of 200 words on how the student’s plans for the future and their chosen college major support the Mississippi automotive industry, and
  • Complete the NISS application and submit all supporting documents.
    • Supporting documents for NISS include:
      • Two forms of residency proof,
      • The student’s resume,
      • The student’s high school transcript and GPA, and
      • The student’s standardized test scores.

Typically, there are either one or two winners selected for the NISS scholarship every year. These winners are chosen by a selection committee put together by Nissan. The committee bases their winner selection(s) off of:

  • Academic achievement (50% consideration)
  • Extracurricular activities/work/leadership/community involvement (15% consideration),
  • Quality of the essay (15% consideration), and
  • Demonstrated financial need (20% consideration).

A student must submit a renewal application every year to continue receiving NISS funding because the award amount is substantial.

If a freshman is chosen for the award, they will receive enough funding to cover their full tuition, required fees and a book allowance for each year of college. The recipient will be allowed to receive funding for up to four years; these four years can be all at one 4-year university or can be split up between two years at a 2-year university and two years at a 4-year university.

Major Colleges in Mississippi

Mississippi has a variety of eligible postsecondary institutions students can attend and receive the state financial aid they earn. Some of the major colleges include:

  • Alcorn State University in Lorman,
  • Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain,
  • Delta State University in Cleveland,
  • Jackson State University in Jackson,
  • Mississippi College in Clinton,
  • Mississippi State University in Starkville,
  • Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena,
  • University of Mississippi in Oxford, and
  • University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

Attending college isn’t cheap by any means, but Mississippi students can help themselves afford an education by applying to these Mississippi scholarships and grants when they plan on attending an in-state postsecondary institution.