By Julia Peoples
After 22 years of consecutively rising enrollment trends for the University of Mississippi, enrollment numbers began to descend in 2017. This Wednesday, the university released 2019 data confirming that the decline is not only continuing but also rapidly increasing.
This fall, the University of Mississippi enrolled 22,273 students across all six campuses, according to UM Communications.
In 2016, Ole Miss boasted the largest enrollment numbers in university history with 24,250 students enrolled, a 1.7 percent increase from the year before.
The following year in 2017, Ole Miss saw a 1.9 percent decrease in enrollment with 23,780 students in attendance. The decline continued in 2018 when 690 fewer students enrolled, resulting in a 2.9 percent decrease in student population and a student body of 23,090.
Now, in 2019, the university has seen an enrollment decline of 3.5 percent, with 817 fewer students and a total student population of 22,273.
Nationally, college enrollment has been declining for seven years, but in 2017, the nation saw the smallest percent decline in enrollment in years – just one percent. In 2018, national enrollment was down by 1.3 percent, and in 2019 it is down by 1.7 percent, according to the National Student Clearing House Research Center.
University Chancellor Glenn Boyce recognized the decline but insisted that the university is taking steps to remain a leader in education.
“We recognize that it is a challenging environment to recruit students because of declining numbers of college and university students nationally, and we are addressing this challenge through additional investments in technology, marketing and recruiting,” Boyce said. “We are proud to offer an unsurpassed learning environment and life-changing student experiences.”
While enrollment declined overall, the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College saw an increase of 4.7 percent in enrollment and welcomed 401 new honors college students, bringing the total number in the school to 1,672.
The number of graduate and professional students at the university also experienced a slight increase, growing by 0.7 percent for a total of 2,876 students enrolled in those programs. Enrollment at UM Medical Center also increased by 0.4 percent for a total of 2,852 students.
While the number of students enrolling is declining, the University of Mississippi continues to create a community that fosters community and growth by keeping retention and graduation rates high.
Of the students who began their college journey at the university last year, 86.8 percent returned this fall, and during the 2018-2019 school year, Ole Miss set a university record for the number of degrees conferred—5,340 degrees—including 1,082 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and 156 doctoral degrees.
“We are thrilled with the energy and potential that our students bring to our campus,” Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs said. “Our faculty and staff are committed to offering academic programs that help all students unleash their abilities and passion to pursue educational and career paths that enable them to be successful. We know that students thrive in a healthy living, learning and working environment. By ensuring this, we create a stronger culture of academic excellence.”