STARKVILLE — The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual “Almanac of Higher Education” edition for 2019-20 is hot off the presses and the information contained there is useful for those interested in reviewing how Mississippi’s higher education system compares with our contiguous neighboring states.

Let’s dive right in to The Chronicle’s Mississippi data. Mississippi is the 34th largest state with a population of 2.984 million. Of that population, 58.2% is white, 38% is black, 2.9% is Hispanic, 0.9% is Asian and 0.5% is American Indian. Another 2.4% is mixed race or “other.”

In educational attainment, 4.8% have an eighth grade education or less, 10.8% have some high school but no diploma, 30.4% have a high school diploma, 22% have some college but no diploma, 10.1% have an associate’s degree, 13.5% have a bachelor’s degree and 6% have a master’s degree. Another 2.4% have a doctoral or professional degree.

Mississippi’s per capita income is $23,121, the lowest in the nation with 19.8% of our citizens living in poverty. Some 28,489 high school seniors are projected to graduate this year, and that number is projected to decline 12.5% by 2030. The state’s dropout rate is 4.8%, while 41.8% of Mississippians ages 18-24 are enrolled in college. Some 93% of all Mississippi high school graduates attended college in Mississippi.

Our state’s high school students averaged 18.6 on the ACT, which ranked them ahead of only South Carolina and Nevada students. Nationally, the average ACT score is 23.

Mississippi’s college enrollment is 171,751. Of those, 88.7% are enrolled in public institutions and 74.9% are full-time students, 60.1% are women and 54.8% are white.

State spending on higher education operating funds in Mississippi is $904.71 million. State spending on student financial aid is $38.7 million. Average tuition at Mississippi four-year institutions is $7,989, while average tuition and fees at the state’s two-year institutions is $3,182.

How does Mississippi compare on those financial statistics with neighboring states?

Let’s look at Alabama. State spending on higher education operating funds in Alabama is $1.645 billion. State spending on student financial aid is $82.2 million. Average tuition at Alabama four-year institutions is $9,881, while average tuition and fees at its two-year institutions is $4,414. Alabama’s per capita income is $26,498. The poverty rate is 16.9%.

How about Arkansas? State spending on higher education operating funds in Arkansas is $1.012 billion. State spending on student financial aid is $120.5 million. Average tuition at Arkansas four-year institutions is $8,228, while average tuition and fees at its two-year institutions is $3,280. Arkansas’ per capita income is $25,316. The poverty rate is 16.4%.

How about Louisiana? State spending on higher education operating funds in Louisiana is $1.163 billion. State spending on student financial aid is $228 million. Average tuition at Louisiana four-year institutions is $9,22, while average tuition and fees at its two-year institutions is $4,101. Louisiana’s per capita income is $25,885. The poverty rate is 19.7%.

And how about Tennessee? State spending on higher education operating funds in Tennessee is $1.923 billion. State spending on student financial aid is $432 million. Average tuition at Tennessee four-year institutions is $9,620, while average tuition and fees at its two-year institutions is $4,148. Tennessee’s per capita income is $28,764. The poverty rate is 15%.

What’s the tale of the tape? A Mississippian can cross the state line in any direction into a contiguous state that spends more on its higher education systems, more on scholarships and other support for college students, and whose higher education institutions charge higher tuition and fees than do Mississippi schools.

The other common denominators? Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee all have higher per capita incomes and lower poverty rates than does Mississippi.

Sid Salter is director of the Office of University Relations at Mississippi State University. Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.