Enrollment Down Overall in Mississippi -- Universities, Colleges See Slip

Article excerpt

JACKSON - A spike in college enrollment appears to be easing for Mississippi's public universities and community colleges.

Enrollment fell 5 percent at the state's 15 community colleges, and rose only 0.6 percent at its eight public universities, according to preliminary figures.

It's the second straight decrease at community colleges. Enrollment dipped to 81,311 across all colleges, although student totals remain higher than before the recession.

Universities posted the smallest increase since 2005, but total students rose to a record of 80,973. Enrollment at public universities has risen every year since 1994.

Students flocked to Mississippi's community colleges and universities during the recession, trying to improve their job credentials. But leaders say a decrease in the unemployment rate, along with restrictions on federal aid, may be cutting the number of students.

Enrollments typically rise when the job market goes sour and ease when jobs become more plentiful. The National Student Clearinghouse, which counts college students, found a cresting wave of people nationwide entering community colleges in 2009, when the economy was at its worst, with the number of students peaking in 2010 before beginning to fall. That's the pattern Mississippi's two-year schools followed, with students hitting an all-time high of nearly 89,000 in 2010.

We had a huge boom in enrollment because of the recession, said Eric Clark, executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board. …