Defying national trends, this Mississippi university just enrolled largest freshman class in its history

Published 6:32 am Monday, November 28, 2022

The University of Mississippi recently announced that 22,967 students enrolled across the university’s seven campuses for fall 2022. Powered by a freshman class of 4,480, the largest in university history, total enrollment is up 5.1%, or 1,111 students, over 2021.

“Students and families across Mississippi and around the country are coming to Oxford in record numbers for the academic excellence, vibrant campus experience and life-changing opportunities that we offer,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce said. “This year’s freshman class is not only the largest in university history, but also among our most accomplished.”

The university’s gains in total enrollment over each of the past two years defy a national trend of declining enrollment. The National Student Clearinghouse reports that enrollment nationally declined 1.1% compared to fall 2021, and that it has declined a total of 3.2% since fall 2020. By comparison, UM enrollment increased 6% since fall 2020.

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Student retention hit an all-time high with 89.3% of last year’s first-time students continuing their studies this fall. The climbing retention rate offers clear evidence of the university’s continued focus on providing a supportive academic environment for its students.

“Our stellar academic support programs are helping more and more freshmen adjust to the rigors of college, as reflected in the historic retention rate this fall,” Boyce said. “I’m especially grateful to our dedicated faculty and staff who help our students build their personal legacies, and it’s rewarding to see those efforts result in so many tangible indicators of growth, including an expanding Ole Miss family.”

To put that into context, the most recent national retention rate for full-time students was 72.4% for fall 2020, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Kyle Ellis, director of the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, credits an “all hands on deck” effort at the university to retain students.

“Our overall enrollment increase is a double win that results from an increase in new students and retention of our current students,” Ellis said. “These retention efforts take place across virtually all areas of campus.

“The freshman year experience courses are small, and the instructors take time to get to know the students and help them succeed. Our academic advising model allows for advisers to not only help students with classes, but also address their needs in making that transition to college.”

UM is well-known for offering one of the most competitive tuition rates in the country. The university was recognized in September by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Value School,” which takes into account a school’s academic quality compared to its cost of attendance.

The university’s Office of Financial Aid dispersed $334 million in aid to UM students over the 2021-22 academic year.

Along with providing affordable tuition and extensive financial aid, the university has increased its recruitment efforts to attract new students. Created in 2021, the Division of Enrollment Management brought the offices of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid into one team to boost UM’s overall enrollment strategy.

“This year’s freshman class and transfers reflect a total campus community and alumni effort,” said Eduardo Prieto, vice chancellor for enrollment management. “I am appreciative of the great job done by our enrollment management division, which includes an outstanding team of admissions and financial aid professionals.

“Under the strong leadership of Chancellor Boyce, an Ole Miss education and experience is in high demand and appeals to a talented variety of students from throughout the great state of Mississippi and across the country.”