For the first time in more than two decades, Ole Miss experienced a decline in enrollment this year.
Total University of Mississippi enrollment is 23,780 students this year, compared to 24,250 a year ago, a decline of 1.9 percent. The total includes enrollment on the Oxford and regional campuses and the medical center in Jackson.
Freshman enrollment was 3,982 last year and 3,697 this year, a 7.2 percent dip.
The University of Mississippi still has the highest overall enrollment in the state. The percentage of in-state students increased in the freshman class and overall. Mississippi residents comprise 60.2 percent of total enrollment and 45.4 percent of the freshman class.
In a press release, university leaders said their enrollment strategy includes managing growth and striving to have incoming classes be more representative of the state. They concentrated in-state recruiting efforts and raised the out-of-state academic requirements.
“We have focused on recruiting more Mississippi students, through our general admissions programs, our MOST mentoring program and hosting important programs such as the American Legion’s Boys State,” Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs, said in the press release. “It is rewarding to see growth in these areas through our concerted efforts.”
The Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent program (MOST) hosts a summer conference in which African-American students entering their senior year of high school can learn about leadership programs and academic and other resources at Ole Miss.
Minority freshman enrollment in the university, at 21.2 percent, is up 1 percent from last year. Total minority enrollment is 23.2 percent, up from 22.9 percent a year ago.
The university noted that over the past decade, Oxford campus enrollment has increased by 62 percent, creating a need to renovate or construct buildings like residence halls, parking garages, the Student Union and a new transportation hub. The university has about $400 million of construction recently completed, in progress or on the drawing board, according to the press release.
“In orientation sessions, we talk about the Ole Miss family,” Hephner LaBanc said. “If we’re going to keep that feel on campus, we have to manage our growth and make sure students can navigate our campus easily and have access to the academic and co-curricular spaces that make them feel comfortable calling this home.”
Incoming freshmen have an average ACT score of 25.04. The average high school GPA of 3.59, up from last year’s 3.57, is a university record.
This year’s first-time students include 85 class valedictorians, 69 salutatorians, 89 student body presidents, 107 Eagle Scouts and 20 Girl Scouts who achieved the Gold Award, the organization’s highest youth honor.
The freshman class also includes 10 recipients of Stamps scholarships. The Stamps Family Charitable Foundation is a national scholarship program that selects recipients for the awards based on their strong leadership potential, academic merit and exceptional character. Ole Miss is among only 33 universities nationally in the Stamps program and one of only six institutions with at least 10 scholars.
Enrollment at the university includes students from all 82 Mississippi counties, every U.S. state and 86 foreign countries.
The Meek School of Journalism and New Media and the Patterson School of Accountancy experienced the largest growth in undergraduate enrollment. Meek School enrollment increased 4.9 percent, and the Patterson School student body grew by 4.6 percent.
According to preliminary 2017 data from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, total enrollment declined by 1.6 percent at the state’s eight public universities. Jackson State, Mississippi University for Women, University of Mississippi and University of Southern Mississippi saw decreases in student enrollment, while Alcorn State, Delta State, Mississippi State and Mississippi Valley State saw increased enrollment. State universities in Mississippi have a total enrollment of 81,350 this fall semester. Community colleges in the state also experienced a decline in enrollment.