By Lloyd Gray/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Mississippi University for Women’s historic mission of educating women is still a central focus, but its new president says MUW is today “a very different university than most people imagine.”
Dr. Jim Borsig, the Jackson native who became president of the nation’s first state-funded women’s college in January, told the Tupelo Kiwanis Club on Friday that MUW has the most diverse student body in the state “by any measure.”
While it’s still 83 percent female, the Columbus-based school now has a racial, economic and nontraditional student mix that includes a lot of first-generation college students who are “college able but not college ready. On our campus we are able to find a way for them to graduate.”
The small campus, private-college atmosphere that allows for individual attention is MUW’s niche in a competitive higher education market, Borsig said. He’s focused not just on enrolling them, but on retaining and graduating them – preferably in four years.
“The best efficiency we can come up with is a four-year degree,” said Borsig, noting the financial pressures state universities face with sharp budget cuts and higher reliance on student tuition.
As an assistant commissioner of higher education before becoming MUW’s president, Borsig focused on improving the university system’s graduation rate.
Borsig took over at MUW after a period of controversy that included efforts by former President Claudia Limbert to change the school’s name. In response to a question, the new president said a name change “is not on my agenda but it’s not something I’m afraid to talk about.” It gives him the opportunity to point to MUW’s diversity, he said.
The university’s total enrollment has increased 4 percent over the last five years to about 3,100, but its number of full-time equivalent students is up 16 percent. The university’s fastest-growing major is its RN to BSN nursing program run out of the Advanced Education Center in Tupelo – from 38 in 2007 to a projected 400 in the near future, mostly online.
Borsig said the university is considering reviving its intercollegiate athletics program, discontinued 10 years ago, as a means of improving the experience of the one-third of the school’s students who live on campus. If it does so, it will likely be in the non-scholarship NCAA Division III or NAIA.