The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Official: Enrollment drop is short-term

    With Spring Discovery Day and the Minority Student Achievement Program on Feb. 6 and 13, university officials prepare to combat two years of decreased enrollment.
    The decline is only temporary, said Joe Farris, director of university relations.
    “The long-term trend will be upward,” Farris said. “We had a couple of very large (graduating) classes these last couple of years. We’ll have to have a very good recruiting year to offset them.”
    Upcoming programs inviting high school and community college students to visit campus are part of enrollment services’ plans to recruit more students.
    Director of the office of enrollment services John Dickerson said: “We’ve initiated a lot of new things to coordinate the campus. We have contracted with a consultant company called Noel-Levitz. What we’re trying to accomplish is to evaluate everything that involves enrollment.”
    Noel-Levitz is a private consultant company that specializes in enrollment management solutions, including student recruitment, financial aid, student retention, market research, publications, Web site development and professional development.
    The university signed a one-year contract with Noel-Levitz in November 2003 to investigate enrollment and recruiting efforts which include scholarships and events.
    “Enrollment is a priority for any college or university,” Dickerson said. “What we’re trying to do now is get everyone on the same page. Enrollment is not just first time freshmen. It’s graduate students, foreign exchange students, community college transfers and retention.”
    For the past 16 years, MSU has had the highest state enrollment.
    The University of Southern Mississippi had announced last fall that it surpassed MSU by 426 students.
    However, further investigation revealed USM’s totals to be inaccurate.
    Final college board figures released in December showed MSU with 16,226 compared to USM’s 15,919 students.
    After investigation, however, MSU was awarded the highest enrollment after USM’s enrollment figures were proven false.
    The Hattiesburg American reported that Institute of Higher Learning assistant commissioner for policy research and planning Phil Pepper, wrote a letter to USM President Shelby Thames. It read that “there were 723 graduate students enrolled at the university in the fall of 2003 semester without the student’s knowledge and some students who had been suspended at the end of the spring semester were allowed to enroll in the fall semester.”
    The university is concerned about enrollment figures because higher enrollment figures mean “more resources into the library, streets, parks, faculty members and other kinds of things,” President Charles Lee said.
    Lee said the university could be more efficient with more students enrolled.
    “Loss of revenue hurts the university,” said Jimmy Abraham, vice president of student affairs. “In student affairs, it certainly plays an impact in activities, health services and housing revenues.”
    Dickerson said the university is also concerned because it appears the IHL is moving toward enrollment-based funding for the state’s institutions.
    This funding affects programs including scholarships, tuition costs and programs offered by the university. Moreover, the university budget is based on state funding and tuition, which includes fees that reduce the costs of athletic tickets and support student entertainment.
    “A smaller enrollment means less money in the university,” Dickerson said. “It has an impact not only on campus, but also in the community.”
    Starkville profits from the number of students renting apartments, eating in restaurants, and patronizing local businesses, Dickerson said.
    Lee said that enrollment affects Mississippi on a state level.
    “Mississippi lags behind the national average of percentage of adults that have a bachelor’s degree. We think it’s important to close that gap to make Mississippi more attractive to new industry,” Lee said.
    Abraham said growth is positive, impacting the public and potential students.
    “When an institution is growing in numbers, it sends a message to the public that something exciting is happening on campus,” Abraham said. “That also sends a message to prospective students that they might want to be a part of this excitement.”

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    The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
    Official: Enrollment drop is short-term