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Mississippi College

Mississippi College Leaders Promote Private Higher Education at the Capitol

January 23, 2014

Mississippi College proved to be a terrific place to pursue an education for students like Will Hedgepeth.

“It’s a great fit for me spiritually to be surrounded by people who will help me grow in my faith,” says Hedgepeth, a 20-year-old MC junior from Clinton.

A kinesiology major, Will was among several MC students joining President Lee Royce and other administrators promoting the state’s private higher education institutions during a Capitol visit on January 22.

Mississippi College is among seven private schools around the Magnolia State enrolling a total of 15,835 students in Fall 2013. About 70 percent of the students are Mississippi residents. The remainder comes from 45 other states and 32 nations.

In recognition of the many contributions of the state’s private colleges, Gov. Phil Bryant recently signed a resolution commending the value of  members of the Mississippi Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. The period of January 20 through January 24, 2014 is proclaimed MAICU Week.

Mississippi College senior Morgan Tynes of Waynesboro says she cherishes the education she’s receiving in small classes on the Clinton campus. “I’m not a number.” Administrators and professors “care about us,” adds Tynes, a standout on the Lady Choctaws track team. “A lot of the private colleges have a Christian environment that I love so much.”

SGA President Edward Moak of Jackson, Andrew Fehrenbacher of Brandon, Hunter Sandoval of Decatur, Alabama, Kaitlin McCarty of Flowood and Claire Fisher of Madison were among the MC students making the rounds at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon.

Royce, MC Vice President for Enrollment Services and Dean of Students Jim Turcotte gathered with counterparts from other private schools to showcase their institutions. The state’s oldest institution of higher learning, Mississippi College dates back to 1826. MC is the nation’s second oldest Baptist college.

The private institutions also provide a “tremendous economic impact” to the state, noted Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn of Clinton.

With more than 5,000 students, including 250 international students, and over 500 employees, Mississippi College is a major economic engine in Central Mississippi. MC’s annual budget exceeds $70 million.

In his 21st year as leader of Rust College, President David Beckley says his historically black 972-student school in Holly Springs has played a significant role in advancing higher education since its founding in 1866.

Representatives from Belhaven University, Millsaps College, Tougaloo College, William Carey University and Blue Mountain College expressed similar sentiments following a news conference. The seven institutions have combined to produce more than 61,340 alumni over the years. The schools definitely have strong selling points.

After making an initial campus visit, Blue Mountain College senior Nathan Rodgers, 23, selected the private school “because it felt like teachers wanted to pour into you on a personal level.” Blue Mountain President Barbara McMillin joined the handful of students from her 550-student campus in north Mississippi.

William Carey University President Tommy King praised private colleges as “trailblazers in the history of higher education in the United States, and so it is in Mississippi. We have public institutions, but there is a niche for private institutions that is very important.”

The push to promote private higher education was among several activities Wednesday at the Capitol. In the Mississippi House chambers, Gov. Phil Bryant delivered his State of the State speech that was seen by a statewide television audience on Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

Photo: President Lee Royce, Vice President for Enrollment Services and Dean of Students Jim Turcotte and Mississippi College student leaders at the Capitol on January 22.