A focus on the quality of the student body has resulted in one of the most academically able freshman classes in University of Southern Mississippi history, highlighted by a record enrollment for the University’s Honors College.
In all, a record 178 freshmen enrolled in the Honors College, which subjects top students to a rigorous curriculum while providing smaller class sizes and requiring research work. The record Honors College class has an average ACT score of 30 and an average high school grade point average of 3.8.
“The increasing Honors College enrollment is a testament to the quality of the faculty and the programs at Southern Miss,” said Honors College Dean Dave Davies. “Talented students have their pick of high-quality colleges and universities, and they gravitate to places like Southern Miss, with a wide range of high-quality academic programs buttressed by an Honors College that offers them special programs and support.”
Erin Blackledge, a freshman psychology major from Taylorsville, said she narrowed her list of potential colleges to four in her senior year, but chose Southern Miss and the Honors College.
“I came to Southern Miss because it offered me the most opportunities,” said the Taylorsville High School valedictorian, who chose Southern Miss and the Honors College, “for its small class sizes, active-learning opportunities and committed faculty.”
Honors College enrollment is up 43 percent since 2007.
“The enrollment increase caps a trend toward steady growth in Honors College enrollment and in increasing visibility of our Honors College students,” Davies added. “This past year, Brandon Hersey of Hattiesburg became the second Honors College student in three years to win the prestigious Truman Scholarship.
“Moreover, our students continue to consistently win Goldwater and other national scholarships, emphasizing the high quality of so many Southern Miss students.”
While enrollment in the Honors College increased, overall enrollment at Southern Miss decreased 1,143 students to 15,325, as the University focused on attracting students it could retain, progress and graduate at a high rate of success.
“We are succeeding in improving the quality of the student body,” President Rodney Bennett said. “Our incoming freshmen represent the best and brightest class yet, and they are already actively engaged in all aspects of campus life.”
The enrollment can be attributed to various factors, including:
*Focus on the quality of the student body—the university is enrolling students it is confident can succeed in progressing and graduating;
*Changes to the Pell Grant program, which has affected enrollment nationwide, may have particularly impacted Southern Miss, as a large number of Southern Miss students receive federal aid;
*University and college enrollment nationwide, and within Mississippi, is trending down, after huge gains throughout the latter part of the first decade of the 21st Century; Southern Miss had five-straight record enrollment freshmen classes from 2008-2012.