(Courtesy of The ClarionLedger.com)
Alcorn State’s rise of nearly 20 percent leads public schools
Enrollment continues to rise at Mississippi’s public universities.
Across the eight schools, attendance is up 5.2 percent compared to last fall – the system’s largest ever single-year increase, to push the system total enrollment over 80,800 students.
“(It) is a very positive sign for economic development in our state,” said Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds. “A better educated citizenry stabilizes the economy and creates better opportunities to bring good jobs to our state.”
The biggest jump was seen at Alcorn State University.
The university, which has campuses in Lorman, Natchez and Vicksburg, grew by nearly 20 percent and has about 4,391 students this semester.
Alcorn official say new students showed the most interest in business, agriculture and education majors.
“It is gratifying to know that we have diverse, high achieving students choosing Alcorn for their academic pursuits,” Alcorn President Christopher Brown said, and he noted that the university intends to keep growing.
“We still have miles to go before we sleep,” he said.
Las Vegas native Booker Reid, 23, decided to go to Alcorn after considering several historically black universities.
“Everything just fell into place,” he said.
He was drawn, in part, to the university’s social work and criminal justice programs.
“It was a big jump,” he said of moving from a large city known for its nightlife to a rural southwest Mississippi college.
Reid came to Alcorn knowing no one but recently was elected freshman class president.
“It’s a change of pace, but as far as the students, everyone has been very welcoming,” he said.
Numbers from the state College Board show a 4.2 percent decrease in enrollment at Mississippi Valley State University – the only public university to experience a drop.
Officials there say they are optimistic that the enrollment figure is still growing.
MVSU traditionally has experienced a bump in recorded enrollment a few weeks after school starts because of registrants that have not made it through the pipeline.
The preliminary count reported last year was 2,491. Compared to the 2,526 recorded by the College Board this month, the university is up 1.4 percent, MVSU President Donna Oliver said.
The final enrollment figure recorded last year was 2,636.
“If this historical trend persists, this year our enrollment will continue to increase until the enrollment files are frozen on Sept. 9,” Oliver said.
She said the university has implemented several strategies to grow enrollment.
“We enlisted nationally renowned higher education student recruitment experts Noel-Levitz and implemented a strategic recruitment plan that we are confident will keep our enrollment moving steadily upward,” Oliver said.
Several schools are experiencing record enrollment this year, including the state’s four largest universities – Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Southern Miss and Jackson State.
Mississippi State, which has set a goal of having 22,000 students by 2015, reached 20,424 this fall, a 4 percent increase over last year.
MSU President Mark Keenum noted that the university saw gains in African-American student enrollment and that the university continues to attract a high percentage of in-state students.
This year’s record enrollment is “a strong indication of the confidence those students have in our ability to help them become the future leaders of our state and nation,” he said. “We tell students that no matter their interest or career path, Mississippi State can help them get there.”
The University of Mississippi’s enrollment hit 18,196 this year. Another 2,626 students are enrolled at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s programs in Jackson. Ole Miss enrollment is up 6.5 percent over last year.
The University of Southern Mississippi’s enrollment grew to 16,506 this year, according to state College Board figures. That’s up 4.6 percent from last year.
“Recruiting and graduating students remain top priorities for this university, and we continue to be committed to creating the most enjoyable and rewarding university experience for our students,” USM President Martha Saunders said. “Our enrollment strategy calls for steady, incremental growth so that we can maintain reasonable class sizes and effectively meet student needs. These numbers allow us to continue to do that.”
Area private schools also have seen a bump.
“All of our branch campuses are having their best fall ever – with each having record numbers of new students,” Belhaven University President Roger Parrott said. “We’ve also had strong growth this year in our Jackson graduate programs with their best new enrollment as well.”
Belhaven has 2,152 students in Mississippi this fall – a 3.9 percent increase from fall 2010.
On the community college level, Hinds Community College’s enrollment is on pace with fall 2010 when the college set a record in credit student enrollment.
“The enrollment gains this year are in part-time students, compared to the last two years where we saw larger increases in full-time students,” said Enrollment Services director Kathryn Cole.