STARKVILLE, Miss., Jan. 24, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mississippi's two largest universities have joined forces to create an innovative program designed to attract the state's best and brightest students into the field of education through a private gift totaling more than $12.9 million. The Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program, or MET, is a joint effort by the School of Education at the University of Mississippi ( Ole Miss) and the College of Education at Mississippi State University (MSU) and is funded by the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson. Designed to be the equivalent of an honors college for education majors, the program seeks to increase interest in middle and high school teaching as a career for top incoming freshmen and community college transfer students. The initial goal will be to attract high ability students who want to become mathematics and English teachers and to help meet the needs of new Common Core standards introduced in Mississippi last fall. "For years, our foundation has been focused on education as the best pathway to economic prosperity for Mississippi," said foundation chairman Bob Hearin. "We believe this program, which is focused on attracting the best and brightest to the profession of teaching, will help fulfill that idea. It is appealing to our board that the program is a joint effort between two of Mississippi's leading universities." Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum and University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones joined each other at a news conference podium in Jackson Tuesday [ Jan. 22] to underline the importance of everyone in the state working together to address the state's educational needs. Jones and Keenum said their universities have accepted responsibility for producing the very best teachers and will use the grant to attract the best and brightest to the profession and increase the prestige of teaching as a career choice. "This joint effort by our two universities should send a strong signal about the importance of this issue and our commitment to addressing it," the university leaders said.