By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – The University of Mississippi’s recent enrollment gains come as the institution tries to meet two seemingly contradictory goals, its chancellor said on Monday.
Ole Miss saw a 3.5-percent growth this year, giving it a total of more than 22,000 students on all of its campuses. It is the university’s largest enrollment and was the biggest gain in the state, which saw its overall number of students decline.
At the same time, the institution is trying to both raise its academic standards and to provide opportunities for residents of the state who are not as well prepared for higher education, Chancellor Dan Jones said.
“We embrace that dual responsibility as a flagship university in a poor state with a lot of needs,” Jones said during a meeting with the Daily Journal editorial board.
The university has become more selective for out-of-state students, while still accepting all of those from Mississippi who meet its minimal admission standards. Those standards include a sliding scale for grade-point average and ACT scores.
Programs such as the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College help to attract more top students, Jones said. This year, the honors college has 358 freshmen, its largest class, with an average ACT of 30.3.
Meanwhile, the university is focusing on helping students who aren’t as well prepared to succeed, Jones said. It is trying to give those students extra counseling, smaller class sizes and even student mentors.
Jones expects the school’s growth to continue. This year’s freshman class of 3,579 students was the largest for any university in Mississippi history. Jones believes Ole Miss can accommodate 4,000 freshmen. That total – with junior and senior transfers from community colleges – would bump enrollment to about 25,000 overall and 21,000 to 22,000 on the Oxford campus.
“We think we can manage that with what we have in place for infrastructure,” Jones said. “Then we’ll pause and reflect from there.”
To accommodate the growth, the university is trying to make better use of its infrastructure, Jones said. It is holding classes later in the day to fully use its classroom space. It also will build a parking deck next to its new basketball arena, near the football stadium, that also will be available on class days.
“These are happy days for us, and we want to be sure Mississippians know this is happening for them, and we want Mississippi to be proud of what they have in the University of Mississippi,” Jones said.