Bucking the trend of other collegiate institutions across the state, the Mississippi State University in Meridian continues to increase its enrollment, jumping by double digits.
"The national trend for traditional-age students, those coming from high school, is trending downward," Terry Dale Cruse, the head of campus, said. "For us, what that means is that we have to focus on our relationship with community colleges."
Enrollment increased by 14 percent coming into the fall semester last year and increased by another 17 percent between semesters, Cruse said, bringing enrollment from 505 students to 590 students.
Cruse credited a focus on graduate programs for students, such as a professional MBA program and teacher licensure program.
The MBA program launched in the summer of 2018, following the demand of local business leaders, and now has 35 students, Cruse aid.
"(Potential) students can use experience in the industry in lieu of a GMAT score for admissions," Cruse said.
Another program, spurred by local district supervisors, requested flexible training for teacher's assistant to become full-time teachers. Since 2015, the program has more than doubled and accounts for nearly 100 students on Meridian's College Park Campus.
"The other thing that has helped us is the statewide initiative 'Complete to Compete,' " Cruse said.
The initiative targets non-graduates who may have partial credits toward a degree.
"All of those things have contributed," Cruse said. "We've placed advisors on community college campuses to work directly with students and help students know what will transfer to Mississippi State and what financial aid packages look like... you take the mystery out of the transfer system and serve them well... and I think that is why we see an increase in enrollment."
Behind being good news for the university, increased enrollment helps the community, Cruse said.
"It means that there are more students in this area with a higher education," Cruse said. "Locally, for the economy, that's a really good thing."
Percy Bland, the mayor of Meridian, agreed.
"We are pleased that students, traditional and non-traditional are taking advantage of the educational opportunities offered through the Meridian Campus," Bland said via email. "Meridian is the place they can continue to grow and progress without having to commute. The traditional students see the benefits of college in a place that we hope they will continue to call home... It’s all good for the City of Meridian."