Student enrollment figures at The University of Southern Mississippi dropped by nearly 7 percent this fall, contributing to an overall statewide enrollment decrease.
The decrease of 1,143 students can be attributed to the university’s shifting focus to attract quality students.
In an interview with WDAM, University Chief Communication Officer Jim Coll said the university made the decision to close late registration earlier than it has closed in the past.
“What we’ve noticed is that students that tend to register late were not as prepared as the students who were registering early,” Coll said. “It’s that focus on quality students, and we feel like, in four years, that the result is going to be a stronger institution.”
The biggest percentage drop among student groups from fall 2012 to fall 2013 was in readmitted students at 12.7 percent. New transfers and freshmen students enrolling at the university dropped by 9.5 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively.
At least 1,332 in-state students chose to enroll elsewhere.
University Provost Denis Wiesenburg said the enrollment decrease means revenue from tuition would also drop.
“…As tuition is based on student credit hours (SCH) not head count, on a percentage basis the decrease in tuition revenue will not be as large as the decrease in head count,” he said. “We estimate our tuition revenue will be down about 1.5 percent.”
According to the Institutions of Higher Learning, the university enrolled 16,468 students in 2012. This year’s enrollment was 15,623.
“The administration has decided to set aside funds from our cash reserves (funds that were not expended in the last fiscal year) to provide the funds to operate normally,” Wiesenburg said. “We will evaluate our financial position at the end of the semester to determine if we need to make any budget adjustments.”
Overall enrollment in the state of Mississippi is facing its first drop for the first time in 20 years.
“While the decrease system-wide is small, it does demonstrate that the changes in the Pell Grant program are having an impact on the decisions students are making,” said Commission of Higher Learning Hank Bounds.
Southern Miss isn’t the only university facing an enrollment decrease. Alcorn State University, Mississippi State University and Mississippi Valley State University also saw low enrollment percentages, but Southern Miss had the largest percentage.