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Speed Scholarship, Academic Excellence, Christian Environment Fuel Record Enrollment at MC

President Blake Thompson is front and center to welcome the largest incoming class of students in Mississippi College's history.
President Blake Thompson is front and center to welcome the largest incoming class of students in Mississippi College's history.

Eli Cooper received some heavenly guidance while considering where to invest the remainder of his undergraduate career.

The Forest resident felt the Lord calling him to ministry and decided to pursue a degree in Christian studies. A pastor at the church where he interned suggested Mississippi College.

“He got his bachelor’s degree at MC and spoke highly of it,” said incoming junior Cooper. “I knew people who were attending MC, and that is how I learned about the Speed Scholarship. I was planning on attending MC even without the Speed Scholarship, but it has made my educational decision so much more affordable.”

While visiting another university during her junior year in high school, Darby Renfro mentioned to her mother that she was going to end up at Mississippi College.

“I didn’t know at the time how it was going to happen,” the incoming freshman from Grenada said, “but I knew the Lord was leading me to MC, and He had a plan for me here.”

A friend sent her an article about the Speed Scholarship, which turned out to be the avenue for her entrance into the Christian university.

“With the scholarship, I knew I could attend MC and enjoy my time rather than worrying about the cost,” Renfro said. “The scholarship greatly impacted me. Without it, I probably would not be here today.”

A talented high school athlete, Sidney Stegall committed to join the MC Cross Country and Track Program last year. The incoming freshman from Columbus had not heard of the Speed Scholarship until he attended Preview Day at MC.

“The Speed Scholarship, along with my athletic aid, has covered all of my costs at Mississippi College,” Stegall said. “I am exceedingly grateful for the faithfulness of God through the generosity of Mr. Leland Speed.”

The generous scholarship legacy provided by the estate of the University’s longtime trustee and one of MC’s most beloved benefactors has fueled record enrollment on the Clinton campus this fall. A total of 1,025 new freshman and transfer students have been admitted to Mississippi College.

According to Michael Wright, dean of enrollment management at MC, that number represents the largest class of first-year students in the Christian University’s 198-year history.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever eclipsed 1,000 new incoming undergraduate students,” Wright said. “The Speed Scholarship has been vitally important to making this class the stellar class that it is. It had an overwhelmingly positive response in the market when it was announced.”

The Leland Speed Scholarship provides full tuition for all admitted high school or undergraduate transfer students who are residents of Mississippi and agree to live on campus. All federal, state, and institutional grants and scholarships earned by Speed Scholars like Cooper, Renfro, and Stegall can also be applied to their remaining balances.

No other institution of higher learning in the state offers full-tuition scholarships for all qualified students from Mississippi.

As powerful of a recruiting tool as the Speed Scholarship is – particularly for those living in Mississippi – students flock to Mississippi College for many other reasons, too.

* A friendly environment in a beautiful, small-town setting.

* Small class sizes and a 16-to-1 student-faculty ratio.

* More than 80 undergraduate majors to choose from, plus more than 50 graduate areas of study, two doctoral programs, a law school, a physician assistant program, and the state’s only art education program.

* Competitive athletic programs in the Division II Gulf South Conference.

* Listing among the finest colleges in the nation for academics, Christian education, and value.

“The most attractive thing to prospective students is and always has been our Christian distinction,” Wright said. “When students prioritize academic excellence and commitment to the cause of Christ, they want to be here.

“The desire for Christian higher education has always existed in the market. The Speed Scholarship just lowered the financial barrier to Mississippi residents being able to access it.”

Measures have been taken throughout the campus community to accommodate the unprecedented numbers at Mississippi College, but Wright said the excitement in welcoming the new students has far outweighed any perceived inconveniences.

“It’s electric around here,” he said. “All of the buzz I’ve heard has been positive. The renovated residence halls are housing some very happy students. Students and professors are beginning to build lifelong relationships. The new and improved Caf has fed some approving food lovers. The clubs and tribes have seen record numbers of sign-ups for their recruitment process.

“All of this is key to Phase Two of the Speed Scholarship. Our best spokespeople are happy students, and so far, we’ve got some very positive marketing happening.”

That includes Cooper, Renfro, and Stegall. Just a few weeks after becoming Choctaws, they each feel blessed to be new students at Mississippi College.

“Receiving the Speed Scholarship has been a huge blessing to me – it has made my call to the ministry so much more attainable,” Cooper said. “I might have had to take some time off of school to figure out a more stable financial situation if it wasn’t for the Speed Scholarship.”

“I am extremely grateful for the scholarship and have loved having the opportunity to pursue my education in a Christian environment as well as a positive educational experience,” Renfro said. “Being at MC has been one of the greatest experiences of my life thus far. The Lord has such big plans for not only myself, but everyone here at MC.”

“I have met many Speed Scholars, and most of them are extremely grateful for the opportunity they have been provided,” Stegall said. “The Speed Scholarship further reinforced the call from God that MC was where I was called to be in school.”

Whether the number of new students at MC continues to increase, Wright said the quality of the educational programs offered at Mississippi College will always draw students.

“Mr. Speed understood the value of Christian higher education. He also understood the importance of Christian higher education. The Speed Scholarship removes the biggest barriers that Mississippi residents have to access premium Christian higher education.

“The Christian distinction has always been desired in the market. Mr. Speed has made it affordable, and higher education will never be the same now.”