The University of Southern Mississippi has enrolled the most academically talented freshman class in the institution’s recorded history for the third year in a row. The highest recorded ACT scores and grade point averages for incoming freshmen; record enrollment at the University’s Gulf Park campus and other coastal locations; and an increase in new students show that USM’s ongoing efforts to recruit and retain high-achieving students are proving successful.
For the seventh straight year, the median grade point average for first-time, full-time freshmen at Southern Miss is the highest ever recorded – 3.33, compared to 3.27 in fall 2015. The average ACT score of new freshmen also increased from 22.73 in fall 2015 to 22.94 this year. Meanwhile, the national ACT average dropped from 21 to 20.8, and the state of Mississippi’s ACT average dipped from 19 to 18.4.
In addition, new students enrolled in the University’s Honors College have an average ACT score of 30.11 and average GPA of 3.87. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the Honors College provides top students with small classes, opportunities for active learning, and research experiences.
“A record number of new students, possessing the highest GPA and ACT averages in recent history, is being driven by the University’s intentional strategic planning for growth, and increasing quality and excellence. These efforts are enhanced by our vibrant campuses in Hattiesburg and Long Beach,” said University Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Steven R. Moser.
Preliminary figures released by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) show that 14,554 students are currently enrolled at USM, compared to the final enrollment count of 14,551 last year.
The fall 2016 figures include an all-time high of 3,241 students enrolled in courses taught by faculty housed at the University’s teaching and research sites located along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, compared to 2,975 in fall 2015. Specifically at the University’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, enrollment increased from 2,898 students in 2015 to 3,162 this year.
The total number of first-year students at USM has exceeded previous levels with 1,563 new freshmen (up from 1,527 in 2015) and 1,820 new transfers (up from 1,657 in 2015). Additionally, the average GPA for new transfer students from community colleges is 3.12, up from 3.09 last year and 3.04 in 2014.
“I am delighted that high-achieving students see The University of Southern Mississippi as an institution that can support them on their journey toward earning their degrees,” said University President Rodney D. Bennett. “I am grateful to each individual – faculty, staff, alumni, and students – who has helped us achieve these results.”
Retention and progression toward graduation remain a focal point for University leaders. Last September, USM unveiled the Office of New Student and Retention Programs, a department geared toward facilitating a seamless transition to the University and developing opportunities to enhance student success.
Current figures indicate a positive swing in retention efforts as the retention rate for first time, full-time freshmen has increased from 72.4 percent to 74.3 percent.
“We’re exceptionally proud this year to have increases across the board, but especially in new students at USM,” said Kate Howard, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Admissions. “Bringing in new students with stronger academic credentials than ever before this year and for the last few years has resulted in many positive outcomes including the up-tick in retention, which is our ultimate goal - to retain and graduate students.”