Monday, November 28, 2022

UM’s Largest-Ever Freshman Class Powers Overall Enrollment Growth

By Erin Garrett

University of Mississippi

Students walk past the Lyceum on a fall afternoon at the University of Mississippi. Acclaimed for its vibrant campus experience, the state’s flagship university is experiencing a surge in enrollment, driven by record freshman enrollment and record retention rates among its student body. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Drawn by robust academic programs, outstanding value and dedication to its students, 22,967 students enrolled across the University of Mississippi’s seven campuses for fall 2022. Powered by a freshman class of 4,480, the largest in university history, total enrollment is up 5%, or 1,111 students, over 2021.

“Students and families across Mississippi and around the country are coming to Oxford in record numbers for the academic excellence, vibrant campus experience and life-changing opportunities that we offer,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce said. “This year’s freshman class is not only the largest in university history, but also among our most accomplished.” 

The university’s gains in total enrollment over each of the past two years defy a national trend of declining enrollment. The National Student Clearinghouse reports that enrollment nationally declined 1.1% compared to fall 2021, and that it has declined a total of 3.2% since fall 2020. By comparison, UM enrollment increased 6% since fall 2020.

Student retention hit an all-time high with 89.3% of last year’s first-time students continuing their studies this fall. The climbing retention rate offers clear evidence of the university’s continued focus on providing a supportive academic environment for its students.

“Our stellar academic support programs are helping more and more freshmen adjust to the rigors of college, as reflected in the historic retention rate this fall,” Boyce said. “I’m especially grateful to our dedicated faculty and staff who help our students build their personal legacies, and it’s rewarding to see those efforts result in so many tangible indicators of growth, including an expanding Ole Miss family.”

To put that into context, the most recent national retention rate for full-time students was 72.4% for fall 2020, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Kyle Ellis, director of the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, credits an “all hands on deck” effort at the university to retain students.

“Our overall enrollment increase is a double win that results from an increase in new students and retention of our current students,” Ellis said. “These retention efforts take place across virtually all areas of campus. 

“The freshman year experience courses are small, and the instructors take time to get to know the students and help them succeed. Our academic advising model allows for advisers to not only help students with classes, but also address their needs in making that transition to college.”

UM is well-known for offering one of the most competitive tuition rates in the country. The university was recognized in September by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Value School,” which takes into account a school’s academic quality compared to its cost of attendance. 

The university’s Office of Financial Aid dispersed $334 million in aid to UM students over the 2021-22 academic year.

Along with providing affordable tuition and extensive financial aid, the university has increased its recruitment efforts to attract new students. Created in 2021, the Division of Enrollment Management brought the offices of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid into one team to boost UM’s overall enrollment strategy. 

“This year’s freshman class and transfers reflect a total campus community and alumni effort,” said Eduardo Prieto, vice chancellor for enrollment management. “I am appreciative of the great job done by our enrollment management division, which includes an outstanding team of admissions and financial aid professionals.

“Under the strong leadership of Chancellor Boyce, an Ole Miss education and experience is in high demand and appeals to a talented variety of students from throughout the great state of Mississippi and across the country.”

Freshman Class Highlights

The Class of 2026 is an academically accomplished group. Incoming freshmen have an average ACT score of 25 and average GPA of 3.6.

The university has seen tremendous growth of Mississippi resident students in its freshman class, with a 22% increase since fall 2020. 

“This class is well prepared for the amazing experiences offered on our campus,” said Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “I expect that they will take full advantage of the academic programs and multitude of co-curricular experiences that are offered and facilitated by the faculty and staff.”

In addition, the incoming freshman class includes:

  • 77 valedictorians
  • 48 salutatorians
  • 78 student body presidents
  • 75 Eagle Scouts
  • 5 Girl Scout Gold Award recipients
  • 35 National Merit finalists and semifinalists

Academic Excellence

The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, celebrating its 25th anniversary, enrolled 1,636 students this fall. This includes 463 freshmen, 270 – or 58% – of which are Mississippi residents. The Honors College freshman class posted an average ACT of 30.5 and an average high school GPA of 3.97.

Students in the Honors College come from 38 states and represent 84 majors that span the university’s academic offerings. The most popular majors among Honors College students are biology, accountancy, international studies, chemistry – including chemistry, biochemistry and forensic chemistry – and public policy leadership.

“The Honors College has a long legacy of attracting high-performing students,” said Ethel Young Scurlock, who was named Honors College dean this past summer. “As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, we remain wholly committed to our mission of preparing citizen scholars so that they can make a difference in their communities.”

The Provost Scholars Program, established in 2010, attracts and rewards high-achieving students with special programming and other academic opportunities. This fall, the university enrolled 803 new Provost Scholars with an average ACT of 29.4 and an average GPA of 3.89.

The freshman class also includes 13 recipients of the Stamps Scholarship, one of the largest and most prestigious merit scholarships in the nation, funded through the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation. The new class brings the total number of Stamps Scholars at Ole Miss to 58, making the university the second-largest Stamps program across the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Demographics: Mississippi and Beyond

A majority of UM students, 51%, are Mississippi residents and come from all 82 of the state’s counties. The county with the highest student population is Lafayette, followed by Madison and DeSoto. 

Outside of Mississippi, the state with the largest representation is Texas, followed by Tennessee, Georgia and Illinois.

For the Oxford and regional campuses, the university’s minority enrollment totals 4,670, or 23.5%. African American enrollment is 2,260, or 11.4% of overall enrollment. Hispanic/Latino students make up 5.1%, or 1,020 students.

The current student body also draws from 90 countries, as far reaching as Brazil, Uzbekistan, Japan and Cameroon. 

International students are an essential part of the university’s diverse community. The Office of Global Engagement works to assist these students and make their transition seamless.

“Intercultural experiences on our campus are so important,” said Blair McElroy, UM senior international officer. “When we have the opportunity to interact with people from other cultures, we gain a better sense of empathy and a deeper understanding of our place in the world.”

Medical Center Growth

The UM Medical Center increased its overall enrollment this year by 1%.

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs, is encouraged by the growth despite the pandemic-induced pressures on health care since 2020.

“We continue to see sustained levels and, in some schools, significant increases in our student enrollment,” Woodward said. “This tells me that our mission to create a healthier Mississippi is resonating with those who seek careers as caregivers and scientists in our state, and we are proud of our role in producing health professionals as the state’s only academic medical center.”

This continued growth also speaks to the quality of its programs. The School of Nursing at the medical center and Oxford campus offers the top-ranked Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in the state, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Constructing UM’s Future

Current and anticipated construction projects across campus are advancing the university’s mission and supporting growth in enrollment.

The Patterson School of Accountancy is raising funds to construct a new 110,000 square-foot building. 

“Our new facility will be in one of the most premier ‘high visibility’ locations on campus, on the corner of Grove Loop and University Avenue, and will provide an exceptionally positive first impression for visitors coming to campus,” said Mark Wilder, dean of the school. “It will serve as an extraordinary recruiting tool for both the Patterson School and university, and will greatly assist us in successfully attracting and retaining top students. 

“While we have become a mainstay among the top 10 accounting programs nationally, we believe our new building will provide an opportunity for the Patterson School to become the top-ranked accounting program in the country.”

The four-story facility will feature tiered auditoriums and classrooms, study areas, conference rooms, administrative and faculty office suites, and outdoor balconies and terraces.

The Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation reached the halfway mark in its construction this fall. It is the largest academic building in the history of the Ole Miss campus.

The 202,000 square-foot facility will support science, technology, engineering and math-related endeavors. It will include classrooms with low student-instructor ratios, as well as state-of-the-art undergraduate lab spaces. 

Anticipated to be one of the nation’s top facilities for STEM education, the building is on track to open in fall 2024.

For more information on enrollment and programs at UM, visit https://olemiss.edu.


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