# The Mississippi State Alumnus magazine.
* The Bulletin of the Mississippi State University.
Up until a few years ago, Mississippi State's enrollment figures were steadily increasing. Then, it started to show a decline. What exactly happened to cause this?
Jimmy Abraham - "The University decided it wanted to have a smaller but brighter freshman class. However, we are now back to recruiting all qualified students because we are the People's University. We have been very fortunate to not only get students in quantity but quality. For the last 17 years, of the high school students that scored 28 or better on their ACT and enrolled in one of our public universities in the state of Mississippi, approximately 47% of them enrolled in Mississippi State. Now, everyone associated with our university - including the faculty, staff, alumni, friends of the university, are engaged in recruiting students very hard. We are letting students know that we want them because we have so much to offer, not only academically, but outside the classroom as well. The University has been very successful in getting that word out because our (fall) applications are up. The applications for summer school are up as well.
This coming year's enrollment may decline again, but, according to an article I read in the MSU alumni magazine, an upward trend should start the following year. What is the reason for the upward trend?
Jimmy Abraham - "We are trying to bring in as many freshmen and transfers as we can. We are also retaining students at a high rate." [MSU's freshman-to-sophomore retention rate is more than 81%, the highest in the state of Mississippi.-Gene]
At what age do you want information on a potential student?
Jimmy Abraham - "It doesn't start their junior year or senior year. It starts when people bring their tots up here for games or other events. In fact, Enrollment Services has an admission certificate that they send to babies when they are born. If they were born in the year 2000, the certificate indicates he/she is admitted to the class of 2018. Our alumni and the friends of the university can put it on the wall so that the child can see it as he or she is growing up."
That's very interesting. How do you find out what babies are born each year?
Jimmy Abraham - "They need to send that information to us. The information can be submitted through the alumni webpage. They can update their information on our alumni page or they can call, write or email Enrollment Services and the certificate will be sent out immediately."
When I interviewed Mississippi State Alumni Association President Gary Blair a few months ago, he mentioned that there was a foundation that was providing scholarship funds to Ole Miss and Southern Miss but not to Mississippi State. What foundation was he talking about and how does MSU stand on obtaining funds from them?
John Dickerson - "There is a foundation located in Jackson (Mississippi) called the Luckyday Foundation that was started by the late Frank Day, the former Chairman (of the Board) of Trustmark Bank.
"They initially gave money to Ole Miss in the early 2000's. They use those scholarship funds for specific targets of students. These funds allow them to supplement their general scholarships based on need.
"Two years ago, when the University of Southern Mississippi started their capital campaign, they were awarded some Luckyday monies as well. These funds provide scholarship money to entering freshmen."
What are some different ways Mississippi State is trying to obtain more scholarship funds other than through the Luckyday Foundation?
Jimmy Abraham - "We have the State of the Future capital campaign going on right now. We are seeking a minimum of $93 million in scholarship dollars in the campaign, and have already received commitments for more than $23 million. Many of these scholarships are restricted to certain majors, or restricted geographically. We need more scholarships which can be designated at the discretion of the university. Those will help our recruiting efforts more than anything. In the meantime, what we are currently trying to do is utilize our existing scholarships the best way possible. There are a couple of things we initiated this year that will help us do that: We had an outside higher education consulting firm, Noel-Levitz, come in to help us and John (Dickerson) put together an enrollment team to help."
John Dickerson - "We implemented a program toward out-of-state students and a program toward in-state students. One of the things we did with Noel-Levitz was an analysis of our scholarship program to see what kind of impact that it has had with students who had scholarships with financial aid and with students who didn't have scholarships with financial aid. It gave us some really good results as to what amount of money it took to have a better chance to enroll students (at Mississippi State).
"Based on that information, we did two things: We instituted some non-resident waivers of tuition scholarships based on the student's predicted first semester college GPA (grade point average). We identified 140 (out-of-state) students who wouldn't have qualified under our current scholarship program, which incorporates a student's GPA and test score. The second thing we did was something for Mississippi students. If they fell into one of three categories, they were awarded a housing scholarship called Residential Living and Learning. Those that fell into ability group one were awarded a housing scholarship of $2,500 per year, ability group two were awarded $1,000 and ability group three, $500. So far, we have had 165 students accept the housing scholarship offers."
Does the university's athletic program success help the university's enrollment figures either directly or indirectly?
Jimmy Abraham - "Athletics are a very important part of the enrollment process. You can't pay for the publicity you receive due to athletics.
"We are all in this together. As an example, we sent a postcard out under the name of (MSU basketball player) Timmy Bowers to 4,500 (potential) freshmen students who applied for admission, with Timmy explaining why he chose Mississippi State. We sent the same kind of postcard to transfer students who applied for admission using Lawrence Roberts. (MSU Athletic Director) Larry Templeton also helped us with the Oregon football game by providing tickets for prospective students, high school counselors and community college officials for Mississippi Education Appreciation Day."
How did the Oregon event come about?
John Dickerson - "Athletics contacted us about doing a joint project for the Oregon game. We asked them if they could also do something for prospective students. They agreed to help us and the event was very successful.
"In partnership with the Lee County Alumni Chapter, we had a reception between the women's and men's basketball games in Tupelo and hosted a student recruitment event during Super Bulldog Weekend."
What are some ways alumni can help Mississippi State recruit prospective students?
Jimmy Abraham - "They can tell students why they love Mississippi State and tell them about their experiences at Mississippi State. They can get together with the Alumni Association and help coordinate alumni events for students. If they don't have a Mississippi State license plate, get one. They should wear their Mississippi State clothes whenever they can. Those two things let people know that Mississippi State is their institution of choice.
"One of the other ways that people can help us (recruit students) is by contacting the Office of Enrollment Services if they know of a prospective student. We especially need alumni and friends of the university to call if they have a son or daughter that is a potential student of the university. Also, when another university is recruiting them, we need to know about that so that we can turn it around. There are thousands and thousands of students and we don't know what is enough information for each student. Get on the phone and let us know that your son or daughter isn't receiving enough information from Mississippi State. The bottom line is we want to recruit each student harder than any other university."
[To send a potential student lead to MSU, you have four options: 1) Email the Office of Enrollment Services at email@example.com, 2) Visit the MSU website at www.enroll.msstate.edu and select the information request form, 3) Telephone 662-325-3076, 4) Write to P.O. Box 6334, Mississippi State, MS., 39762.-Gene]
Gene Swindoll is the owner/publisher of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders sports network. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.