JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi's community colleges and universities are preparing to send 40,000 letters urging former students to check how close they are to a diploma.

Higher Education Commissioner Glenn Boyce announced the further rollout of what Mississippi calls its Complete 2 Compete program on Wednesday, as Gov. Phil Bryant honored the first woman who received a degree under the program.

Bryant said a better-qualified workforce will help the state's economy and raise incomes.

"We have college graduates who are roaming through Mississippi who just don't know they're college grads," he said.

The program also targets people who are close to earning degrees, but need a few more credits. The state's eight public universities have designed degree offerings intended for students with more than three years' worth of old college credits, to aid them in returning to school. As many as 158,000 people will be targeted overall, with the website matching people with a list of schools that offer classes needed to complete a degree.

Debra Harris of Grenada, who earned a bachelor's degree in general studies from the University of Mississippi in August, gave the program a thumbs-up.

"Go for it," she encouraged others. "It doesn't cost anything to apply. If you don't check, you'll never know."

The program launched this summer, and 18 people have already received bachelor's degrees. Another 50 have received associate degrees. A total of 3,500 people have completed website applications.

They're among the 2,400 former students who, according to state records, already have enough credits for a bachelor's degree. Another 28,000 students already qualify for an associate's degree. Harris said the idea of a degree without additional work sounds fishy, but it's not.

"It's for real," she said. "That's the first thing people will say is, 'It sounds too good to be true.' But it is not a scam."

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