November 2, 2022

Mississippi State touts focus on student success and degree completion

Darkhorse Press

Students in the hallway of the Old Main Academic Center in between classes on the first day of the Fall Semester. (photo by Megan Bean / © Mississippi State University)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—After seven years of unprecedented enrollment growth, Mississippi State is reporting a slight decline in first-time freshman enrollment to the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning this fall. IHL released enrollment information for the system’s eight public universities Wednesday.

MSU saw a 22-student decrease in its freshman class with first-time graduate students and transfers marginally down this fall, mirroring a national trend of individuals eager to enter a strong post-pandemic job market, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Known for attracting a geographically diverse campus population from all 82 Mississippi counties, the state’s leading research university and land-grant institution grew 10.6% from 2015 to 2021. MSU remains the No. 1 college choice for Mississippi’s high school graduates with 14,513 Magnolia State students enrolled, 64% of the student body. Students also hail from all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Nearly 90 countries are represented in this year’s student body.

Overall, MSU’s enrollment declined 1.9% from the fall 2021 total of 23,086, the largest student body in the university’s 144-year history. MSU enrollment of 22,649 remains about 420 students higher than pre-pandemic levels.

“We continue to position Mississippi State for recruiting and retaining students who want to pursue their dreams and be the best they can be,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “Students and their families want to be a part of our outstanding academic programs and inclusive, vibrant campus community. They understand the incredible experience we offer and the value of a Mississippi State University degree.”

The university currently is engaged in the development and implementation of several campuswide initiatives, including a new strategic plan, strategic enrollment planning, comprehensive branding update, and advances to the campus master plan. At the core of these wide-ranging efforts is a focus on student success, with MSU reorganizing its services under a new Center for Student Success. A more robust First-Year Experience program, additional freshman pathway courses, and an enhanced Learning Center for academic performance are a few of the important elements.

“Successful recruiting efforts are, of course, of the utmost importance, but the key to our future is degree completion,” Keenum said. “Our state needs more college graduates who can compete for the jobs of the future. We want to do everything we possibly can to ensure our students are not only making academic progress, but walking across that stage on graduation day. We are committed to doing our part.”

Mississippi State graduates are seeing significant success, according to a 2020-21 First Destination Survey administered by the MSU Career Center. The survey found that 97% of these graduates reported being employed or that they were pursuing advanced degrees within the first six months after graduation. Also, more than half of those reporting their employment location said they have remained in Mississippi to work.

According to New York-based financial technology company SmartAsset, Mississippi State continues to rank No. 1 in the state as the top “Best Value College,” with graduates earning higher salaries than those from any other in-state college.

The university’s veteran-affiliated student population is up 6.81%. MSU is consistently recognized nationally as a top 10 university for support of the veteran community, and has been listed among the Military Friendly Schools rankings for three consecutive years.

As MSU’s enrollment has steadily increased, so have academic departments, degree offerings and program curriculums. Just this year, the university has seen the following additions:

  • Department of Interior Design elevated from program status
  • Department of Building Construction Science elevated from program status
  • Master of Fine Arts in Historic Preservation
  • Master of Arts in Communication
  • Online Master of Science in Sustainable Bioproducts
  • Online Master of Science in Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture Conservation Education
  • Engineering Leadership Excellence Program: Dual bachelor’s degrees in Industrial Engineering and Business Administration
  • Bachelor of Science in Data Science
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Communication and Media Studies
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering

Other academic enrollment facts:

  • College of Arts & Sciences the largest with 4,929 students
  • College of Forest Resources up 5.1%
  • College of Architecture, Art & Design up 4.6%
  • Shackoul’s Honors College up .48%
  • College of Education, Education Specialist Degree up 24.2%
  • Gulf Coast site up 8.9%
  • Physician Assistant program up 131.6%
  • Bachelor of Applied Science program up 30%
  • Youngest enrolled 15, oldest 84

Highlights of this year’s first-time student scholarship recipients include:

  • 42 Presidential Scholars
  • 36 National Merit Scholar Finalists
  • 145 valedictorians and 79 salutatorians
  • 78 student body presidents
  • 76 Star Students
  • 92 Eagle Scouts
  • 7 Girl Scout Gold Award recipients

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