Despite losing its president to a sister institution a few months ago, Mississippi Valley State University’s enrollment has remained stable.
According to figures released Friday by the state’s Institutions of Higher Learning, MVSU’s preliminary head count this fall is 2,458, up three students from last year.
If the increase holds, it will be the fourth straight fall the school has experienced an enrollment gain after nearly a decade of declines.
MVSU remains, though, the state’s smallest of the eight public universities, trailing No. 7 Mississippi University for Women by 12 percent.
MVSU’s acting president, Dr. Jerryl Briggs, could not be reached for comment.
Systemwide, university enrollment was down 1,304 students, or 1.6 percent.
The biggest drop was experienced at Jackson State University, which is now headed by Valley’s former president, Dr. William Bynum Jr..
JSU saw enrollment drop by 12.5 percent.
JSU officials said the school cut back on aid to students as the university deals with a financial crisis and purged students with overdue bills more quickly.
“The university is requiring payment earlier in the semester, which allows us to manage our resources more effectively,” Bynum said in a statement.
Also seeing enrollment fall were the University of Mississippi, the University of Southern Mississippi and MUW. Ole Miss dropped 470 students, or 1.9 percent, saying it’s trying to increase its share of in-state students and raise academic requirements for nonresidents.
Delta State and Alcorn State both saw their student bodies grow by 5 percent or more. Delta State President Bill LaForge said his school’s 5.3 percent growth was fueled by, among other things, better recruiting, keeping more students from dropping out and doubling the school’s number of international students in the last three years. Alcorn said its freshman class surged by 38 percent to a record level.
Universities have focused on recruiting students as a strategy to improve finances, especially among the smaller schools. The idea is to gain additional revenue by filling empty seats, with programs offering lower tuition rates to some nonresident students. Southern Miss, after becoming the latest university to enact across-the-board tuition breaks for out-of-state students, saw enrollment among such students grow more than 5 percent. Overall enrollment still shrank there, though.
Meanwhile, enrollment also fell by almost 1 percent at the state’s community colleges, the seventh straight year the two-year schools have seen declining head counts.
Mississippi Delta Community College saw its fall enrollment drop by 1 percent to 2,348.
Community college enrollment began dropping after hitting an all-time high of almost 89,000 in 2010, as a better job market means fewer people are brushing up on job skills. This fall’s enrollment, dipping below 73,000 students, is 18 percent lower than the peak. But overall declines are moderating.
East Central Community College grew fastest among the five community colleges adding students, rising 10 percent. President Billy Stewart said a new women’s dormitory may have provided the biggest boost, but also credited better recruitment and retention.
“We had nowhere to go but up, because last year we had the greatest decline in enrollment,” Stewart said.
Enrollment shrank most at Itawamba Community College, where it fell by 8.5 percent.
New President Jay Allen called the decline “challenging.”
“For us, that’s a huge drop in enrollment,” Allen said, attributing some of the fall to low unemployment in northeast Mississippi, but also saying he was seeking measures to raise student numbers.