Monday, October 3, 2022

UM Continues to Grow, Bringing Excitement and Challenges

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor

alyssa.schnugg@hottytoddy.com

The University of Mississippi started its 2022 fall semester off with the largest freshman class in the school’s history, according to Chancellor Glenn Boyce.

University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn Boyce. Image provided by University Communications

“It’s by far the largest freshman class in our history,” Boyce told Hotty Toddy News Wednesday. “The actual percentage over last year’s class is someplace around a 26 to 27 percent growth, so it’s significant.”

While final numbers for enrollment won’t be available until November, Boyce said this year’s freshman class is not only big on numbers but boasts some high academic achievements.

“Just our students from Mississippi had an average ACT score of 25 and an average 3.7 GPA in high school,” he said. “The freshman class overall has an average ACT score of 25 and a 3.6 GPA. It’s an exceptional and outstanding academic class. There are high expectations for what this class will achieve in the next few years.”

The rate of in-state students, those who call Mississippi home, has also increased. There are about 200 more Mississippi students in this freshman class than in the 2021 freshman class. Over the last two years, the number of Mississippi students enrolled at Ole Miss has increased by 20 percent.

Boyce said there is no indication that the growth in freshman enrollment will slow down.

‘We’ve already opened up applications for next year and we already see more applying right now for next year that we’ve had for the last two years,” he said. “We’re super excited about that.”

While in-state enrollments are increasing, Ole Miss continues to attract many of its students from around the country. According to Boyce, 88 percent of Ole Miss students come from the southeastern states.

With each achievement, whether in athletics or academics, UM becomes more visible to families outside Mississippi.

“We’re a national brand,” Boyce said. “When you have 1.6 million people watching the College World Series and they see these tremendous colors of powder blue, red, blue and all of the fans, or hear Hotty Toddy, they see the excitement wrapped around the University and they start to think, ‘I’d like to visit (Ole Miss).’ ”

And once prospective students visit the University, Boyce said, many are hooked.

“They see America’s most beautiful campus, which we actually think we have,” he said. “And when they see the culture here and they watch the people and how we all interact, that’s where they decide, this is a great place.”

While winning national championships and having a 10-3 football season can contribute to increases in enrollment, Boyce said many Ole Miss alumni who have children getting close to college age encourage their children to attend Ole Miss to have the same experiences they had while at UM. That can lead to word of mouth as the students invite their friends to come to tour the campus with them.

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications)

The university has also worked on its branding over the last few years and has a new website coming out in about a year, Boyce said. The school has focused much of its marketing efforts on telling the stories of student achievements.

Jim Zook, chief marketing and communications officer, said the most powerful part of the Ole Miss story is the student experience while at the university.

“We’ve really leaned into more student stories as a way to illustrate the experience here with hopes that any prospective student will find at least one student’s story that we highlight and think, ‘I want to do that.’”

Many universities across the country have struggled with enrollment since the pandemic, according to a report released earlier this year by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which reports that total post-secondary enrollment, including undergraduate and graduate students, decreased by 4.1 percent in the spring of 2022 compared to the spring of 2021.

But with growth, comes challenges and Boyce said the university must manage its growth responsibly.

“I think you have to grow relevant to how much investment you’re going to make in your infrastructure,” he said, “because if your infrastructure can’t address your students the way you promise their parents and promise them when they came here, then you haven’t successfully managed growth successfully.”

The university is charged with making sure it can accommodate its students with enough parking options, for students who live on campus as well as for commuters. There are also challenges related to housing and food services for students. The university works closely with the city of Oxford as the growth at Ole Miss can, and does, affect the infrastructure of its hometown.

Above all else, Boyce said, the university must provide students with the highest quality education, employing the best instructors and professors, while keeping class sizes down to about a 16 to 1 ratio when possible.

“We get excited about a large freshman class and that’s wonderful,” he said. “But if we see this growth continuing we will have to start recognizing that this growth is going to be consistent and we have got to take care of all of these things – housing, food services, parking, faculty, library service, and all academic services for the success of our student.”


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