Saturday, February 4, 2017

Bill Crawford: Inflated University Enrollment Costs Taxpayers

With tight state budgets looming for the foreseeable future, government operations must be rationalized to higher levels of efficiency and performance. Mississippi’s public universities should not be exempt from this process.

In last week’s column I suggested legislators look hard at university admission standards and out-of-state tuition. IHL’s current approach is to admit under-prepared students and to discount out-of-state tuition. This approach inflates enrollment, drives demand for tax dollars, and results in nonstop tuition increases and requests for new bonding authority.

Consider this. Since 2011 enrollment at our public universities grew from 80,516 to 82,654, but in-state enrollment fell from 61,917 to 57,717, a 7% decrease. The enrollment increase came totally from out-of-state students, growing from 18,599 to 24,939, a 34% increase. No doubt much of this growth results from the 2012 law legislators passed allowing IHL to discount out-of-state tuition.

If the goal is for universities to grow enrollment, things are hunky-dory. But if the goal is for universities to educate and graduate Mississippi residents, things are not so swell.

A compliant Legislature is part of the problem.

The 2012 law allowing discounted out-of-state tuition should be rescinded. Admission practices at the University of Mississippi (UM) and Mississippi State University (MSU) should be at least as high as major universities in neighboring states. And admission practices at the other six universities should incorporate a minimum 21 ACT score. Students with ACT scores as low as 16 can be admitted now.

ACT predicts at least 75% of university students achieving a 21 composite ACT score (18 in English, 21 in social science, 22 in math, and 24 in science) should earn a C average or better. That’s a pretty low standard.

However, the average ACT scores at four universities are below 21 – MVSU 17, ASU 18, JSU 19, and DSU 20. Scores at MUW and USM are 21 and 22, respectively.

The average ACT scores at UM and MSU are both 24. But averages at major universities in neighboring states are higher – Alabama 26, Arkansas 26, LSU 26, and Tennessee 27.

Admission standards at most universities are based on a combination of ACT (or SAT) scores and high school grades on the college preparatory curriculum. Major universities in neighboring states tend to admit students with at least a 23 on the ACT plus above average high school grades.

Eliminating out-of-state tuition discounts and incorporating into admission practices at least a 21 ACT score at six Mississippi universities and at least a 23 ACT score at UM and MSU would just about wipe-out the need for remediation, significantly improve graduation rates, cause dramatic reductions in university enrollment and staffing, and reduce demands for taxpayer support.

Along with these changes, alternative education pathways would need to be provided for the thousands of under-prepared students graduating our high schools. Community colleges are one existing pathway. Others would mitigate disproportionate impact to our historically black universities.

Political fallout would be intense, but taxpayers are demanding more efficient and productive government.

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (


Bill Dees said...

I believe that average ACT scores are so low in many Mississippi universities is a result of the failure of the Legislature to fully fund secondary education in Mississippi. Higher ACT scores depend on better instruction in high schools. The 2016 freshman class at Ole Miss was 3982 students, with an average ACT score of 25.2, and an average high school GPA of 3.57. I expect that part of the reason why Ole Miss's freshmen score so high is the high percentage of out of state students admitted, who have access to quality, fully funded high schools. The problem isn't with the universities in Mississippi, it's in the failure of the Legislature to adequately fund public elementary and secondary education in Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

The enrollment increase came totally from out-of-state students, growing from 18,599 to 24,939, a 34% increase. No doubt much of this growth results from the 2012 law legislators passed allowing IHL to discount out-of-state tuition.

Define 'much' as a percentage Crawford. Better yet, find out exactly how many of the 6340 students received discounted out-of-state tuition.

Eliminating out-of-state tuition discounts and incorporating into admission practices at least a 21 ACT score at six Mississippi universities and at least a 23 ACT score at UM and MSU would just about wipe-out the need for remediation, significantly improve graduation rates, cause dramatic reductions in university enrollment and staffing, and reduce demands for taxpayer support.

Crawford's silver bullet leap.

Anonymous said...

Ole Miss' (and probably MSU's) ACT averages are brought down by their in-state students. The OOS average is a few points higher than in-state. We need to close 3-4 of the universities in the state AND stop telling all children that they are meant for college. We need more people with Associate's Degrees and skilled trades and fewer kids leaving university with no degree and $20,000 in debt (not to mention wasted state and federal tax dollars).

Anonymous said...

I can agree with raising rhe score for admission ut think there is a definite positive for waiving out f state tuition for those with higher scores especially those who have a parent who is an alum of the school.

Anonymous said...

Had to know one of those MAEP mo' money parrots would show up.

Anonymous said...

@Bill. You could throw all the money in the world at Mississippi schools and the kids would still be uneducated. It isn't a funding problem. It's the structure that we are refusing to acknowledge is broken or hold officials and teachers accountable.

Throw in kids that aren't motivated and parents that aren't involved and you have Mississippi Schools for the past 50 years.

I sent my kid to private school for 13 years while living in a good public school district in 39110. Once, by accident, I got the grades OD a student in the class. Guess what! He failed most of his work. Why? Because he was unmotivated.

If you want to improve schools, segregate those trying and learning from the trouble makers that are there because the school gets money for butts in seats.

Anonymous said...

One problem with Ms. schools is the people who should spend their time improving the schools only think about improving their bank account. They don't give a damn about the children. You can throw all the money you want at the schools system but most of it will end up in the pockets of these people and the kids will still be illiterate.

Anonymous said...

As a parent with kids in public schools 39110, ten percent of the students are from neighboring failing districts. These kids tend to be ill prepared for learning, not motivated to learn and the discipline cases that don't get disciplined. I think they get more money in the districts where they should be. Explain that Mr Crawford.

Anonymous said...

The fact that one child is unmotivated has absolutely no effect on the ACT score of a motivated child. ACT scores are not derivatives of funding.

I'm reading hogwash from people who suggest our neighboring states are better preparing children for college than WE are. I'm also reading hogwash from at least one person who has the unsupported audacity to claim that Mississippi students pull down the average scores of the whole body of students.

If any of those claims were true, the federal Justice Department would already be about the business of requiring children of one state to be integrated into schools in other states. The whole goal of education (now) is to assimilate all children into one melting pot of mediocrity where everybody is average.

I'm not sure how some Mississippi 'universities' have for years gotten away with lower ACT admission requirements while others have required higher scores. That's what kept boys like Walter Payton and Jerry Rice out of Mississippi SEC schools.

Anonymous said...

Almost four thousand Ole Miss freshmen averaged better than a B+ GPA?

Not sure I believe that.

Anonymous said...

Average ACT at MSU and UM have been consistent climbing for years and recently USM's started rising as well. Truth is there aren't enough high ACT scores in Mississippi to support this trend. If you have a high achieving student going to a Mississippi'university you should welcome high achieving kids from other states filling up the seats. That's why the average scores are rising. Otherwise they will be filled with unqualified local students.

Anonymous said...

USM went through this exact cycle over the last decade. Enrollment soared by taking under qualified freshmen. The freshmen dropped out at an alarming rate because they could not pass. Feds put USM on notice. USM tightened standards and now average ACT is the highest they have had in years. All the news wants to report is that USM enrollment is down, but the freshmen they are bringing in are much more prepared. The whole point of issuing the tuition waivers to out of state students is to fill the empty seats that were previously filled with under qualified students. Long term, this is good for the schools and the state as some number of these bright kids will set roots here.

To their credit, Ole Miss figured this out long ago.

Kingfish said...

Should we look at the number of graduates by university instead of entering frosh?

Anonymous said...

Look at graduation rates. Look at starting salaries for graduates. Look at how many graduates stay in state. All of the stuff a normal business person would look at if they wanted to fix the system but no university president wants to pay attention to.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere in this conversation, I'm waiting to see who places ANY value to all of this "research" that is produced by our university PhD's that don't want to be bothered with teaching duties.

Sadly, that is how faculty value their publication in journals nobody reads.

Anonymous said...

People should realize that getting a teaching job is the easiest thing a college graduate can do. We are letting the bottom of the class teach our children. If we want better educated children we need teachers that are not forced into teaching because they lack the knowledge to get a better job.

Anonymous said...

So wait a second. We're going to keep funding the schools with 18 ACT's and 38% grad rates, but cripple the two schools that use out-of-state students' money to help build the nationally competitive programs that create the few actual innovations that come from Mississippi and let Mississippi's better students get good jobs?

Why not just, you know, close the schools that suck?

Anonymous said...

Bill is totally wrong, because I say so!....sounds familiar huh

Dunce Asked To Define said...

"That's why the average scores are rising. Otherwise they will be filled with unqualified local students."

What is an 'unqualified local student'?

Liberals Have Ruined It For Us All.. said...

It appears every university president in this state is more concerned with re-inventing history, banning the state flag, renaming streets, removing statues and impressing his peers across the country.

How does any of that contribute to the mission of colleges.....which I used to think was to educate students.

Anonymous said...

Look at how many graduates stay in state.

Red herring measure.

Anonymous said...

5:30, are you serious? Start with can't read or write. Or can't get in any college in a surrounding state.

Anonymous said...

We need more universities in Mississippi. Where else will we erect huge buildings paid for by taxpayers and named after politicians?

Anonymous said...

Mississippi could solve it's higher education problems by eliminating the junior and senior year of high school for those students who do not make a decent ACT score in the 10th grade. Then send those "students" who do not make the score to the fields or to labor camps where they can learn a productive trade. Mississippi has wasted too much money on education already. Make Mississippi great again.

Anonymous said...

So how much should state taxpayers subsidize those out of state students? At present out of state students who are allowed to pay tuition at in state rates are costing more than they bring in in tuition, then they leave the state, so we see no return on the investment. It is good to have out of state students, but at what cost if the taxpayers are footing the bill?

Anonymous said...

12:27 If you think ACT scores was the reason Walter Payton or Jerry Rice didn't go to MSU or Ole Miss, welcome to the 19th century. You must live there.

Anonymous said...

can you imagine what the average ACT for community colleges is? i'm guessing it's not a requirement for a reason...

Anonymous said...

I think IHL's funding formula now emphasizes graduation rates over enrollment head counts. As a result, more university resources are being placed in the areas of "student success" and "retention" in order to help students remain on track to graduation.

Anonymous said...

@ 1:25, it also emphasies STEM and other fields of study that are especially beneficial to the state. The problem is that the #s show that funding increases are necessary for Ole Miss & MSU (and maybe Alcorn slightly) and decreases for USM & Delta State. The IHL pansies don't have the stones to follow their formula and tell the chaff that they will see funding decreases because they aren't cutting it. So, instead they "hold harmless" the schools who aren't doing their job at the expense of the two universities who are. That is what Dan Jones lost his cool over. Ole Miss charted their course based upon this formul and the weak-knees at IHL screwed them. If we aren't going to close a few schools, then we need to create EO state boards. Otherwise the IHL crabs will always pull those who are succeeding right back down into the bucket.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Ayers decision didn't allow ACT admission standards to be raised.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:41, the Ayers Agreement has expired and standards can be changed if the universities wanted to. Word is that State and Ole Miss are scared to increase the standard for fear of another lawsuit. That's the kind of scared thinking that holds MS back. We need those two to be the Market Makers for Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

Close the W and Valley. If you can't make a 21 on the ACT, you go to junior college until you get an AA, some sort of trade certification, or a 21 on the ACT and can transfer to a 4yr school. And that's generous. You know what a C average Bachelor's Degree from a MS university is worth on the job market? I'm tired of paying for college for people who don't have the intellect, drive and discipline to be there.

I have a terminal degree, a good job and lots of student loan debt in my 40s. If I had gone to nursing school (2yrs at the time) or become a plumber or electrician after high school, I would have a significantly higher net worth right now. Blue collar jobs may be looked down upon, but there is no dignity in being a slave to your debts and trapped in a job you hate.

Anonymous said...

If you think Rice and Payton had scores high enough to qualify for MSU and Ole Miss, you would be wrong.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:42, looking down on blue collar careers is precisely one of our problems, in my opinion. We push college to students so much so that the one who shouldn't be there and who doesn't want to be there attend anyway even though they would make excellent welders, plumbers, carpenters, etc. We have to stop making kids feel like failures if college isn't their thing. it wastes taxpayer dollars as most of these kids eventually drop out without finishing their degree.

Anonymous said...

I'm tired of paying for college for people who don't have the intellect, drive and discipline to be there.

Do you like paying for RINO pork?

Anonymous said...

11:17 You are joking, right? You really think Jerry Rice or Walter Payton couldn't get into Ole Miss or State because of an ACT score. What world do you live in. They would be recruited by every school in the SEC including Ole Miss and State if they made a 10 on the ACT. They would sit behind the President's desk and wined and dined and bribed like the kids are today. But when they came through, Ole Miss and State weren't in the business of recruiting BLACK football players like today. That's why they weren't there. Jeez.

Anonymous said...

In 2017, IF grades and ACT scores were the issues, Payton and Rice would be at Scooba, starring in Last Chance U, earning AA degrees and 2.5 transferable GPAs on at least 48 transferable hours to get them eligible to move on to the SEC or some other Power 5 conference.

If they were REALLY focused, they would earn those AA degrees by December so they could transfer midyear and be enrolled at the four-year school to participate in spring practice there.

Anonymous said...

12:15 The point is, that when it comes to really great football players, grades and ACT scores are not as much of an issue as you seem to believe. Ole Miss, MSU, LSU, and yes, Alabama just signed and will play several 4 star and 5 star players who are no more academically prepared than Payton or Rice. When Rice and Payton were in high school, Ole Miss and MSU barely recruited 10 percent of their class from Black high schools. Had nothing to do with "grades and test scores". Today, more than 80 percent of their recruits are Black. Payton, Rice, and scores of other All everything Black players were recruited and played at SWAC and other black colleges, but were ignored by the SEC, not because of test scores but because at that time race was paramount. The desire to win changed that not some academic standard. But according to your reasoning, sometime around 1990 a horde of black football players suddenly got a revelation and started making good grades and great scores on the ACT. Then those bastions of academic integrity, MSU and Ole Miss, decided they could accept them by the truckload. Sudden Academic Qualification Syndrome "SAQS". Bullshit. Regarding Payton and Rice, I don't personally know as much about Rice, but I do know that Walter was recruited by northern and Big 12 (formerly Big 8) and Big 10 schools whose academic reputations outstrip UM and MSU. Walter was a good student, and if some of the athletes I have seen can enroll and stay eligible at SEC schools today, I know damn well Walter could probably graduate from an SEC football factory. Before you belittle and make assumptions about the academic credentials of people you don't know, just to make some stereotyped point, make up some fictitious names or generalize as usual.

Anonymous said...

It wouldn't matter if a football player could not spell his own name. If he was a good player he would go to college and graduate. Still probably could not spell his name though. It just goes to show how little people actually care about education.
Anyone remember the football player that bought the auto dealership in Jackson then when he went broke tried to sue others for his stupidity? Said they should have known he was too stupid to run a dealership.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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