CLEVELAND, Mississippi – Enrollment at Delta State University continues to increase due to growth in distinctive academic programs and an increase in the number of students who transferred to Delta State from community or senior colleges.
While the “official figures” released today by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning showed a slight decrease in enrollment, the report does not take into account a new system at Delta State to remove from its rolls, earlier in the semester, those students who have not paid their tuition.
In the past, students who did not pay their tuition were not removed from the rolls until October. However, this year, Delta State moved that process to the end of August to coincide with the last day of registration.
“We expect enrollment numbers to fluctuate, particularly early in the semester as students complete their institutional and financial aid paperwork,” said Dr. Glenn F. Boyce, Commissioner of Higher Education. “Setting an early purge date is a good business practice that will enable the university to operate more efficiently and effectively. Increased enrollment is not the only sign of a strong university. Delta State University provides its students with focused attention and an excellent student experience that prepares them well for the future.”
“The comparison in the business world would be renting a house to a tenant for two months — allowing them to live in your house, use the utilities, and eat your food — without any guarantee that you would receive the rent at the end of those two months,” said Steve McClellan, Delta State Vice President of Finance and Administration.
“This change in our business process is part of an overall effort to constantly evaluate and improve fiscal systems and to provide the best return possible on the money invested in the university by taxpayers and donors,” McClellan said. “We greet students with Delta hospitality, but they are expected to pay for the education and services they receive. We consider that to be part of their educational process which should have them better prepared for the business world.”
Though the change in process affected the way enrollment was reported for this year, the actual enrollment figures are positive.
“When comparing the number of students from the fall 2014 semester who remained on Delta State’s rolls with the number of students remaining on this semester’s rolls, we show an increase of approximately one percent in enrollment,” said Debbie Heslep, Delta State Dean of Enrollment Management.
“We have been preparing the campus, community, alumni, governing board, and other officials that our enrollment figures were going to ‘appear’ down on paper. But, in reality we have experienced an increase in enrollment, and I am thrilled,” said Delta State President William N. LaForge. “We have worked very hard to let others know about the great things happening at Delta State. I personally recruited in more than 70 high schools and community colleges around the state the past two years, and I plan to continue recruiting visits this year.”
“Also, we are providing more scholarships than ever to community college transfers who are Phi Theta Kappa honorary society members,” LaForge said. “Those scholarships boost both our enrollment numbers and the academic quality of our student body with the addition of more than 100 students who sport GPAs of 3.5 to 4.0. We are winning the enrollment management battle and increasing our numbers, and we are making a difference.”
It is clear from the growth of certain programs that the university continues to attract and retain students through its offering of unique and specialized programs.
School of Nursing Dean Lizabeth Carlson said they have more applicants for the nursing program than they can accept, and have created a wait list for qualified students who did not get into the program this year.
Delta Music Institute Director Tricia Walker said their program, which trains students on a variety of music industry careers, has seen a measurable increase in their enrollment, going from 76 students this past year to 90 students in 2015-16.
“Per the current trend, we anticipate 20-25 new students enrolling per year over the next three to five years,” Walker said.
In addition to the growth in key areas, one of the exciting milestones achieved by Delta State this year is an international student enrollment of 105 students, up almost 40 percent from just two years ago, said
Christy Riddle, executive director of the Student Success Center on campus.
“We’re excited that our international student population is growing,” Riddle said. “International students bring additional perspectives and diversity to campus, and we look forward to continuing to increase our international student population.”
Riddle added that new partnerships with international universities including Perm State University in Russia, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin in Poland and The University of National and World Economy in Bulgaria are exciting because they offer faculty and student exchange and further expand Delta State’s influence and visibility internationally.
La Forge said these strides in key programs are yet another indication of the growth taking place on campus. This growth is also evidenced by the upcoming opening of the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi on campus.
“We have entered into a formal educational partnership with the museum,” said LaForge. “We look forward to the many educational opportunities this partnership will afford students interested in entertainment careers, and to the many visitors from across the region and country who will experience the outstanding programs and services Delta State offers.”