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Coast campuses anticipate increased enrollments for fall

Higher education is varied on the Coast and offers something for everyone.

All four schools — Tulane University’s Biloxi campus, William Carey College, the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College — are experiencing enrollment increases and expect that trend to continue next month when the fall semester begins.

Founded in 1834 in New Orleans, Tulane University came to Biloxi two years ago and opened a branch of University College, one of 11 colleges within the university. Dr. Lou Campomenosi, dean of the Biloxi campus, is expecting an increase in enrollment that will give them 300 students, amounting to 600 class seats since the majority of students take two classes.

“After just two years, we’re off to a good start and are making steady progress,” he said. “We’re in a good position to continue to grow.” A master’s degree in liberal arts will be offered for the first time this fall. Campomenosi said some instructors come from New Orleans but most are from the Coast and have doctoral degrees. He said the university takes care to develop an instructors’ pool here.

The most popular major at Tulane is media arts, and computing is the second most popular. The first school in Mississippi to offer gaming management classes, the casino major is coming along very strong, the dean said, because gaming employees on the Coast want to progress in that industry.

He said Tulane offers financial aid to students, and while there are no unusual budget problems this year, the university does try to have a balanced budget and stay within it.

“It’s difficult to break into a new market as we did here but we’re pleased with our growth,” Campomenosi said. “We already need to expand our space but first things first as we continue to increase our enrollment.”

William Carey College on the Coast, a branch of the Hattiesburg campus, is a fully-accredited private four-year school affiliated with Mississippi Baptists.

Administrative dean Jerry Bracey said students can complete degrees in business, art, nursing, education and psychology on the Coast campus without going anywhere else. Master’s degrees are offered in business administration, education and nursing psychology — a new program last fall. Additionally, there’s a program for registered nurses with associate degrees to earn a bachelor of science in nursing.

“Our enrollment was up last fall for the third consecutive year. We had 1,815 students and that was a significant increase,” Bracey said. “We expect that growth to continue this fall.”

Even with growth, he said William Carey College tries very hard to keep classrooms at 20 students per class so students can have easy access to faculty.

Bracey explained that although Carey receives no federal funds, students participate in federal loan programs.

“Because we’re a private college, our tuition is a little higher, but we offer scholarships and financial aid,” he said. “We have no budget problems because of the hard work of our president and outstanding alumni support.”

The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast expects 2,500 students for fall, a 10% increase, at its Gulf Park campus and teaching sites at Jackson County and Keesler Air Force Base, according to Ken Malone, chief operating officer.

“We’ve put a lot of effort into improving our quality of courses and reaching into the community to see what’s needed and the need is here for this four-year university,” he said. “USM president Dr. Shelby Thames is committed to Gulf Coast and would like to see 6,000 students here.”

Malone says enrollment is growing due to much more aggressive recruiting efforts and new and improved programs.

“We held on-site registrations around the Coast to make it easy for working adults to register — they’re the main target of Gulf Coast — and we’re starting TV ads in two weeks,” he said. “The biggest new program is the bachelor’s degree in casino/resort management in the department of hospitality/tourism in the College of Business.”

The university has committed new resources to criminal justice on the Gulf Coast with a focus on forensic science that teaches data management. Malone said there is a demand for the program which grew from Gulf Park campus’ police academy.

Malone and others at USM take great pride in the doctor of philosophy program in international development, one of only a few such programs in the world. The unique course of study has grown from zero to 60 students in six years and includes students from all over the country.

Its “blended delivery” instruction method combines online classes with on-campus intensive programs and a two-week international research project to complete the doctoral dissertation process. Those projects have included research into the computer boom in the economic development of Ireland and tourism in France’s Loire Valley.

“The great thing about this program is that it’s designed for working adults,” Malone said. “We have hopes for this program to be very big. There’s a lot of interest in it from military personnel and executive senior level management people.”

Participants fly in for three-day intensive learning experiences, usually on weekends, to support and enhance the research and online portion of study. The program began on the Hattiesburg campus with students flying in to Gulfport and driving there. This fall for the first time, classes will be held on the Gulf Coast.

Malone said USM Gulf Coast has increasing costs due to normal inflation and is hurt by the lack of an increase in state funding.

“It hurts because the cost of business goes up for things such as fringe benefits,” he said. “We’re making up the ground with tuition increases that will be about $100 per semester for full-time students.”

He said that USM Gulf Coast, as an urban campus, is not adversely affected by a bad economy or lack of jobs. Inversely, when jobs are scarce, more people attend school with grants and financial aid.

Growing by leaps and bounds, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) hit a new high last fall with 10,231 students taking credited classes at its three campuses and three centers. According to Colleen Hartfield, vice president of institutional relations, that milestone makes MGCCC the largest community college in the state.

“We have had 11 consecutive semesters of growth and expect that trend to continue,” she said. “Our full-time credit enrollment has increased more than 30% since the fall of 2000.”

Although MGCCC won’t have exact fall enrollment numbers until several weeks after the semester begins on August 16, Hartfield says the goal is to definitely make last fall’s number again if not more.

The community college is expanding its nursing programs by adding the associate degree nursing program at the Perkinston campus this fall. This expansion is being made possible through a $334,353 start-up grant from the Bower Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving medical care in the state, especially in rural areas. The program will start with 20 students and will be based on the same nursing criteria used at the college’s Jackson County and Jefferson Davis campuses. Hartfield said new programs include logistics technology taught at the Jackson County campus in partnership with Northrop Grumman.

“This is an industrial program they need and we have a specific plan of how we will grow and serve the community,” she said. “Because of that, we’ve been able to grow not only in enrollment but also in programs.” MGCCC has looked at ways to solve budge problems in response to the 15.7% funding cut that all community colleges took from the state for the last four years.

“That is the largest percentage of any entity,” she said. “Our teachers are teaching more classes with more students. We have cut travel and supplies and will have a tuition increase of $100 per semester.”

Hartfield said the community college is committed to giving employees their first raise in four years this year. It is also looking at grants, private sources and partnerships to solve budget woes.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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