MC Shatters Enrollment Record
August 30, 2007Mississippi College's Christian studies program, the chance to play football for the Choctaws and top-notch faculty were big factors that led freshman Brett Barnhill to MC.
"I'm impressed with the football team - they are some great Christian guys," said Barnhill, 18, of Birmingham, hours before MC's Backyard Brawl with rival Millsaps on a rainy Thursday. "My youth minister went to MC and said it was a great school," he said."I heard the professors were awesome."
Students like Barnhill, also considered Samford, West Alabama and Auburn, helped MC set a new enrollment record of 4,564 students this fall. MC officials released the numbers this week showing a hefty increase to shatter last fall's record of 4,162 students.
Mississippi College's new academic programs combined with stepped up recruitment efforts led by a well-traveled 14-member admissions team were among the key factors that caused a spike in enrollment, school officials say. New reports show freshmen numbers rose, from 450 last fall to 528 this year, a 17 percent increase.
"Recruitment has been increased, faculty and staff have been more focused on recruitment," said Jim Turcotte, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs. "We think we have become more of a first choice school because of our reputation in our primary market, and we have been successful in states like Alabama and Louisiana."
There are other factors coming into play. "We have contained our costs and continue to improve our academic reputation and quality is the best explanation of why we are growing," Turcotte said.
The latest U.S. News & World Report "America's best Colleges" rankings listed MC as 6th among the South's master's universities when measuring value with quality.
International students have seen their numbers climb dramatically in recent years. When President Lee Royce joined the MC family in 2002, there were just nine international students on the Clinton campus. Last year, there were 240 enrolled. This year,that number grew to 285 international students, including a large contingent from China.
New academic programs such as the master's in business administration with a concentration in finance are attracting more graduate students. Now there are nearly 969 graduate graduate students at MC. A new doctorate in higher education leadership starting in January is expected to attract 20 students the first year and 20 per-year after that. A new equestrian program for MC women, with intercollegiate competition to begin in October has attracted some transfer students.
But recruiting remains key to MC's success in Mississippi and elsewhere. "Our recruiters have gone above and beyond the call of duty to recruit this year's class," said Chad Phillips, executive director of enrollment services. "Through their hard work and the hard work of the whole campus we have been able to recruit this record breaking class."
The numbers include 2,979 undergraduates, 969 graduate students, 539 at the School of Law in downtown Jackson and 77 in the education specialist program. There are visible signs of the enrollment explosion. Since residence halls on campus are all booked solid, dozens of MC students are now housed in the College Plaza apartments on College Street, a block from the main campus.
Students like Barnhill, who's the first in his family to attend MC, plan to spread the message about the close-knit Christian university to family and friends. He's got two younger sisters in Alabama. "I'd definitely recommend it."
The growth at the Baptist-affiliated college has been steady in recent years. When Royce began serving as MC's president in 2002, there were 3,200 students taking classes. Today, some administrators predict MC enrollment will easily surpass the 5,000-student mark in a couple of years.
PHOTO: Gail Bankston, 20, accounting major from Carrollton, transfer from Holmes Community College in Goodman, now a student at MC this fall.