Even though business schools in neighboring states are attempting to lure graduate students from
Mississippi, most residents are not crossing state lines.
“Enrollment in graduate business programs is strong at Mississippi universities,” said Pamela P.
Smith, spokesperson for the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning.
“Overall, 93% of the Mississippians seeking higher education do so in Mississippi. Our universities
are providing increased flexible scheduling and, when possible, programming by distance learning and
Internet in their graduate business programs to make higher education more accessible to the busy
When people cross state lines, it’s generally because they want to attend a top 10 business college — a
reality for people in the top 2% of their classes, but not for most people, said Dr. John Holleman,
director of MBA administration at the University of Mississippi.
“It’s an exaggeration to say that we’re seeing a trend in people leaving Mississippi,” he said. “In fact,
we’ve not only been able to retain students in Mississippi, but we’ve seen a marked increase in the
number of out-of-state students, from Memphis, New Orleans, Arkansas, North Texas, the metro
Washington, D.C. area and Virginia, coming to our MBA program. One of the driving reasons is the
funding opportunities we have here.”
According to the Office of Research and Planning, nearly 1,000 people were enrolled in business
graduate programs at Mississippi universities this semester. Last fall, the number of graduate students
was 909, up from 888 enrolled in the fall of 1998.
More than two-thirds were enrolled in MBA programs, followed by 137 in accounting, more than 50 in
general business, 40 in economics, 25 in taxation and four in marketing degree programs.
No students were enrolled in management information systems and business data processing degree
programs (four were enrolled in fall 1998).
Mississippi State University accounted for the most graduate students in the state — 280. Of those,
approximately half were enrolled in the school’s general MBA program, more than 50 in general
business, 29 in accounting and 13 in taxation. The number was slightly up from 279 students enrolled
last fall and 248 in 1998.
“About 80% of these students are from Mississippi, and the remaining 20% come from all over the
country and the world,” said Dr. Barbara Spencer, director of graduate studies, College of Business and
Industry at MSU.
Of the 254 graduate students enrolled this fall at the University of Mississippi, 141 were enrolled in the
MBA program, 72 in accounting, 25 in economics, 12 in taxation and four in marketing. UM’s graduate
student enrollment has gradually increased from 227 in 1998, and 248 in 1999, even though the school
revamped its MBA program several years ago and limited its acceptance of students.
“Since 1948, we’re had our MBA program in place, and it’s always been a very sound program. But in
1996, our faculty decided it was not up to par with the New Economy,” said Holleman. “We scrapped
the old program and put together a new one to meet the needs of skills in a wide variety of areas and to
provide students with a broad knowledge across a number of disciplines and fields. The trademark of
our new MBA program is that its core curriculum is cross-functional.”
The John N. Palmer Assistantship and Fellowship Program Endowment plays a vital role in the strategy
to recruit students into the Ole Miss MBA Program, Holleman said.
“Each year, approximately 25 MBA students receive a graduate assistantship funded through the
Palmer Endowment, and approximately 90% of our students get some type of graduate assistantship or
funding,” he said.
The University of Southern Mississippi counted 149 graduate students, with 115 studying for MBAs,
19 in accounting and 15 in economics. Two years ago, USM reported 147 graduate students, dipped to
an enrollment of 119 last year, before increasing again this fall.
Business Week Online, which features a return-on-investment calculator for folks considering graduate
school, at www.businessweek.com/bschools, named the MBA programs at Ole Miss and USM among
the best part-time programs in the nation this year.
In the same report, Business Week Online ranked Tulane University in New Orleans as one of the top
full-time MBA programs in the nation, naming Entergy, Reliant, Deloitte & Touche and Chase Bank
among its top hiring employers.
Tulane reported 313 graduate students enrolled this fall, with 153 students enrolled full-time, of which
42% are international students and 160 attending part-time in the school’s professional and executive
MBA programs. Tulane’s primary market includes the Greater New Orleans area, which extends east to
Biloxi and north to Baton Rouge.
“No full-time MBA students are commuting from Mississippi at this time, primarily because the
program is so intensive,” said John Silbernagel, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid for
Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business.
A Pascagoula resident is the sole Mississippian commuting to Tulane for the school’s part-time
executive MBA program, an 18-month alternate weekend program, said Caryn Whatley, assistant
director of executive education.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at email@example.com or (601) 853-3967.