A record number of students enrolled in the state’s public universities and colleges this fall, according to the Institutions of Higher Learning.

This year marks the largest system-wide fall enrollment with 83,016 students, compared to 81,024 at the same time last year.

Glenn Boyce, the head of the state’s colleges and universities, has recently emphasized research showing that the vast majority of jobs created after the recession went to people with at least some college education, and a big chunk of those went to degree-holding individuals.

“There is no doubt that earning a degree is a solid investment in the future,” Boyce said in a press release on Friday. “Record enrollment clearly shows that our students understand the importance of investing in higher education.”

Nationwide, college enrollment has steadily declined since 2010 after a wave of students enrolled during the height of the Great Recession.

The University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University, the state’s two largest universities, saw 1.7 and 3.6 percent increases respectively. This is the 22nd consecutive year the University of Mississippi’s enrollment has increased. MSU’s current students, 66 percent of whom are state residents, include 3,624 first-time freshmen. At Ole Miss, 59.4 percent of students are from Mississippi, and the freshman class numbers 3,982.

Mississippi University for Women in Columbus experienced the largest amount of growth percentage-wise at a 10.7 percent uptick in enrollment. The only institution to experience a decrease in fall enrollment from the previous year was the University of Mississippi Medical Center, which saw less than a 1 percent decline.

The lack of growth in enrollment this year is mostly due to space constraints, according to UMMC.

“We are near or at capacity in all of our programs, with the exception of some of our online offerings,” said Dr. Ralph Didlake, the Medical Center’s associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

The school did see growth in certain areas, including the School of Medicine, the Medical Center’s residency and fellowship programs, and the School of Dentistry.

Delta State University President William LaForge
Delta State University President William LaForge Credit: Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today

This marks the third year Delta State University has seen increasing enrollment numbers after an 8-year stretch of shrinking enrollment. President William LaForge credits the success to the college’s efforts on recruitment and retention, which included doubling the number of staffers whose job is specifically to recruit community college and transfer students.

According to the Mississippi University for Women, enrollment is up in all areas, including new freshmen, transfers and international and dual enrolled students.

The University of Southern Mississippi’s enrollment remained roughly the same as last year, and Jackson State University’s numbers grew by 0.1 percent.

Boyce also highlighted the increased number of degrees awarded to students year to year. In 2016, universities and colleges awarded 17,305 degrees compared to 16,813 degrees in 2015.

“What is equally important to record enrollment is that we are also granting degrees in record numbers,” Boyce said. “These graduates have increased earning power, which will in turn help move Mississippi’s economy forward.”

Percent change in enrollment and total fall enrollment by university

• Alcorn State University: 6%, 3,730 students

• Delta State University: 3.7%, 3,587 students

• Jackson State University: 0.1%, 9,811 students

• Mississippi State University: 3.6%, 21,622 students

• Mississippi University for Women: 10.7%, 2,960 students

• Mississippi Valley State University: 8.4%, 2,502 students

• University of Mississippi: 1.7%, 24,250 students

• University of Southern Mississippi: 0.0%, 14,554 students

System-wide: 2.5%, 83,016 students

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.