By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
Led by the University of Mississippi, enrollment increased this year for Mississippi’s eight public universities.
Cumulatively, the state’s public institutions reported a record 80,974 students, an increase of 458 or about half a percent from last year, according to preliminary figures released Monday by the state Institutions of Higher Learning.
“This enrollment increase is smaller than the increases we have seen over the past few years, but having more than 80,000 students enrolled is still great news for our students and our state,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Hank Bounds in a news release.
Ole Miss, Mississippi Valley State University and Delta State University saw increases, while the other five institutions saw small declines.
Ole Miss, including the medical campus in Jackson, grew by 691 students, or 3.2 percent, to a school-record 21,535 students. The university’s Oxford campus plus its regional campuses in Tupelo and Southaven swelled by 569 students, or 3.1 percent, to 18,793. Among its gains, the university saw double-digit percentage increases in engineering, journalism, pharmacy and applied sciences.
The university’s increase came after officials began using tougher out-of-state admission standards following consecutive years in which enrollment grew by more than 6 percent. The average ACT score of this year’s freshman class rose from 23.5 last fall to a record 23.8. Their high school GPA rose from 3.35 to 3.43.
“The dramatic increase in applications over the last few years led to a decision to manage our growth through a new admissions process for nonresident students,” Chancellor Dan Jones said in a news release. “A first step was the decision to limit the size of the freshman class to assure a good academic and campus life experience for our students.
“We are thrilled that the new enrollment strategy also allows us to continue our progress on stronger academic credentials of our admitted students.”
Mississippi State University’s enrollment fell by 59 students, or 0.3 percent, to 20,365. The university’s overall undergraduate enrollment reached a record 16,390, while graduate enrollment fell.
“A key factor has been a sustained reduction of available research funding at the federal level, and this has had an impact on the number of graduate assistantship opportunities,” MSU President Mark Keenum said in a news release. “In spite of these challenges, Mississippi State continues its robust research activities to meet the needs of our state and nation.”
Keenum also noted more than 76 percent of the university’s undergraduate students are Mississippi residents. The university’s enrollment goal is to have 22,000 students by 2015.
The University of Southern Mississippi was the third largest school with 16,471 students. That is a decrease of 133 students, or 0.8 percent, from last year.
Delta State grew by 133 students, or 2.9 percent, to 4,756, while MVSU added 15 students to reach 2,467.
Also in Northeast Mississippi, Mississippi University for Women reported 2,651 students. Although that is down 10 students from last year, the school’s full-time equivalent enrollment grew by 2.83 percent.
That number divides the number of credit hours students are enrolled in and divides it by the number of hours in afull-time load: 12 for graduate students and 15 for undergraduates.
MUW’s FTE enrollment has risen by 21.8 percent during the past five years. President Jim Borsig said that indicates students are enrolling in a greater number of hours each semester.
“I’d like both numbers to be up, but the fact that full-time equivalent enrollment is up means more students are taking more hours which means they should be moving toward graduation,” Borsig said. “It is the right number to be moving in the right direction if the goal is to graduate students.”
Meanwhile, Ole Miss’s enrollment included a 5.7 percent increase on the Tupelo campus, which now has a record 905 students.
UM Director of Credit Programs Lynne Murchison said a large number of Tupelo students have taken advantage of the new bachelor of general studies degree, which allows students to complete a degree with three minors. Other high demand programs on the Tupelo campus include social work, business, education, accountancy, criminal justice and liberal arts.
“I don’t know whether it is people coming back to school to be qualified for their jobs or whether there is the desire for the bachelor’s degree,” she said. “All I know is our classes are full and we are looking at ways to supply what our students need.”
MSU’s figures include 656 students on the Meridian campus.