Enrollment down at MS public universities - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Enrollment down at MS public universities

Bounds points to multiple factors that collided to cause the enrollment decline. Bounds points to multiple factors that collided to cause the enrollment decline.
Enrollment at Mississippi's public universities has been climbing since the 90s, but for the first time since 1993, those numbers are down. Enrollment at Mississippi's public universities has been climbing since the 90s, but for the first time since 1993, those numbers are down.
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Enrollment at Mississippi's public universities has been climbing since the 90s, but for the first time since 1993, those numbers are down.

It's a small downturn, but the Institutions of Higher Learning is taking the opportunity to talk about where there are chances for growth.

"It's absolutely critical that this state look at this little dip here as a wake up call and think about how we make this state more competitive with the rest of the country," explained Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Hank Bounds.

Bounds points to multiple factors that collided to cause the enrollment decline, but he sees the ability to attract non-traditional students as an opening for growth.

"Every alum wants their university to focus on first-time, full-time freshman, the 18-19 year olds. Well, the truth of the matter is, if we're going to change the economy of the state, we've got to think much more critically about how we reach the 25-35 year olds," Bounds said.

Bounds says without a boom in high school graduation rates, numbers of first time freshmen will remain relatively steady.

Another stumbling block to a college degree is cost.

"Tuition has gone up. We're pricing people out of the market, particularly when we've seen cuts to Pell [Grants]," Bounds said.

Jim Coll, who serves as Chief Communication Officer at the University of Southern Mississippi, agrees.

"It certainly does have an impact and certainly many of our students depend on financial aid and federal aid and Pell grants," Coll said.

Southern Miss saw the second highest drop -- only behind Mississippi Valley State.

Three of the state's schools -- Delta State, Ole Miss and Jackson State University -- defied the downward trend.

"One of the really huge stories of Jackson State this year is just the incredible size of our freshman class. Our freshman class grew about 26 percent. That's significant," said Provost Dr. James Renick.

Dr. Bounds says those three schools have done well with drawing non-resident students.

Mississippi's community colleges saw enrollment down for the past couple of years. So, the college board anticipated they may see that cycle transfer over to the universities.

Copyright 2013 MSNewsNow. All rights reserved.

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