Despite state drop, UM hits ACT record

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

The University of Mississippi is reporting school-record ACT scores even as its home state has received criticism for being at the bottom of the nation.
Ole Miss reported that the average score of this year’s freshman class on the college entrance exam was a university-best 23.9. That figure is 0.4 points higher than the fall 2011 average score and 0.6 points higher than the 23.3 average in the fall 2010.
“It signals to the faculty that teach these students that the students are well-prepared to enter the next phase of their education,” said UM Associate Provost Noel Wilkin. “It allows our faculty to challenge students and help them be prepared for the next phase of their careers.”
The news comes two weeks after the ACT released state average scores for the high school graduating class of 2011. Mississippi ranked worst in the nation with a state average of 18.7, a number that declined from the 18.9 state average in 2007.
Mississippi was, however, one of only eight states that tested about 100 percent of their students, meaning that the statistics are representative of a diverse population. Nine states tested 20 percent of their students or fewer.
Other Northeast Mississippi colleges and universities report relatively flat ACT scores.
Mississippi University for Women had an average score of 21.19 for the entering freshman class in 2011 and 21.96 in 2010. Data for this year’s class is not yet available.
Blue Mountain College has an average score 21.17 for this year’s freshman class, up from 20.08 last year and similar to the average of 21.13 in 2010.
Itawamba Community College has seen its average of 18.6 on the test remain flat for the past two years.
Figures were not available for Mississippi State University or for Northeast Mississippi Community College.
Liz Edwards, ICC’s director of institutional research, effectiveness and accountability, said the higher the students’ scores, the fewer remedial classes they need to take when they enter campus.
“The longer students need to go through remediation, the longer time for completion and the less likely they are to complete,” she said.
Wilkins credits Ole Miss’s recent rise on the growth of special programs like the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, the Trent Lott Leadership Institute and the Croft Institute for International Studies that helped attract students to campus.
He said those programs also attract a large number of Mississippi students. The university’s average ACT score for entering freshmen from Mississippi has remained steady near 23.5 for the past three years.
Meanwhile, Wilkin said the university was also committed to helping those who come to campus with ACT scores that are not as high.
“We have also built programs to enable them to be successful,” he said.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com