Sunday, February 11, 2024

Bill Crawford: Enrollment Cliff Illuminates Lack of State Plan

Where are we going and is that where we want to go?

Rare public discussion of that question hit the news recently. “Starting next year, the number of high school graduates will begin to fall in Mississippi,” began the story in Mississippi Today. “In Mississippi, this trend, called the ‘enrollment cliff,’ will force the largely tuition-dependent colleges and universities to compete for a shrinking pool of students.” 

Low birth rate and population decline trends have long term consequences. 

IHL Commissioner Al Rankins told legislators that universities have been “talking about the enrollment cliff for years” with a working group focused on regional universities. Kell Smith, the director of the Mississippi Community College Board, said his board does not have a strategic plan for the enrollment cliff but some of the individual community colleges might.  

“Very simply – how can we fix the problem to prepare for 15 years from now?” asked Rep. Donnie Scoggin, chairman of the House Universities and Colleges Committee. 

“When can we expect a report to detail those recommendations and strategies for the future,” Sen. Scott DeLano, vice chair of the Senate Universities and Colleges Committee, asked Rankins.

Do you see the paradox? 

The questions should be the other way around. Universities and colleges do not have the means or mission to address those trends so should be asking legislators, “what is the state’s plan to address our low birth rate and population decline trends?” 

Of course, these are not the only long-term trends impacting Mississippi – rural to urban migration with its associated brain drain and aging population effects, retail trade migration from brick and mortar to online with at-home delivery, automation in manufacturing and agriculture, growing dependence upon digital technology and related infrastructure, climate and epidemic trends, global supply chain changes and growing costs, and so on. 

So what is the state’s plan to cope with such trends? 

Well, we don’t really have one. Our last real try at one was adopted in 2004 by the Bureau of Long Range Economic Development Planning. It mirrored the 2003 Blueprint Mississippi plan developed by a public private partnership led by the Mississippi Economic Council and chaired by Dr. Robert Khayat. (Blueprint was updated in 2011). 

But even Blueprint, which acknowledged an aging population and brain drain, did not suggest state plans to counter or cope with most of these trends. And, of course, state leaders ignored key elements that were proposed, e.g. “promote health care as an economic driver.”  

As a result, universities and colleges along with other agencies, communities, and businesses must go where the trends take them whether they want to go there or not.

“But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins,” Luke 5:38.

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.



Anonymous said...

Sigh. As usual, the elected idiots in Jackson of the last 15 years are out to protect ONLY the bureaucracy and not the state's short or long-term well being.

Anonymous said...

The President of MUW is working hard to make her school completely irrelevant and ripe for closure. That will be one less school.

If we can hire a President of such caliber at Ms Valley State to force its closure, then we will be making real progress.

Anonymous said...

Easy fix. Less students. Less colleges.

Anonymous said...

Consolidate the universities. Eliminate all university programs that aren't STEM. Convert all community colleges to vo-tech programs. Phase out the student loan programs.

Anonymous said...

The college board has spent the past one hundred years strengthening the big two, Ole Miss and State, for national competition, more lately USM has
been added. Now they will simply let nature take it's course and the weak unable to compete with their meager resources will fall by the wayside. The real question is how to close/eliminate the leftovers. It's well underway.

Anonymous said...

"As a result, universities and colleges along with other agencies, communities, and businesses must go where the trends take them whether they want to go there or not".

In other words the marktetplace will dictate, the strong survive. That's the plan.

Anonymous said...

"Easy fix. Less students. Less colleges."

Or, as educated persons should be able to write:

"Easy fix. Fewer students. Fewer colleges."

More snark available upon request ;-)

Anonymous said...

What we will do....just let less qualified people in. We already got rid of the ACT. Let them in, loan them money, act like you might forgive the debt. Been doing that for a while now.

Anonymous said...

@ 1:26!!! Why didn't we think of this sooner??? If we had just asked you earlier, think of the disasters we'd have skirted. @ 1:26 for Governor. NO! President!!!

Don Drane said...

Not only might there be fewer scholars at the trough, but there's also no need to physically matriculate at a brick-and-mortar campus. Too easy to stay in bed until 10:00, roll out of the rack and get your online degree wearing your Wal Mart pajamas.

The only reason for Mom to send her babies to Ole Miss will be for the sorority or fraternity experience.

Billion-dollar football programs, and their stadiums, will not be here in fifteen years.

And if democrats remain in charge, requiring a high school diploma, much less a college degree, to qualify for a job, will be illegal racial discrimination.

Meanwhile, the experts on here yelping about consolidation don't realize that these campuses (nationally) will be graveyards in twenty years.

Anonymous said...

Since when is it the legislature’s job to populate MS colleges and universities?

Anonymous said...

5:22 I don’t know where this all ends, but I’ll bet you a steak dinner the big money stadiums and programs will be around in ten years.

Anonymous said...

I believe the junior colleges have 38 campuses.

How many more do we need?

Anonymous said...


"Since when is it the legislature’s job to populate MS colleges and universities?

Excellent question to the point of it all. When the leaders and politically connected realized "education is all MS has..." and is the largest employer of people in the state. They began to use it as a jobs program for those who can't do, but can find a meaningless, redundant job within the PERS scam on taxpayers. Doyle and Loretta, just do your 30 and your set!

Redistribution of wealth at its finest.

Anonymous said...

MVSU will be the last school standing as long as BT is alive. That the school is totally irrelevant to today's job market doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

Forward thinking egg-heads have invented something called 'Gap Year'.

Realizing that young folks might put off going to college or drop out altogether, the 'Gap Year' concept was invented to ensure that the money flow doesn't dry up. Even Christian universities are sponsoring 'Gap Year' - So you know it's gotta be credible and worthwhile.

Google it. Learn something about this money-making alternative to college.

You can postpone college and learn about planting stuff or getting involved in dancing or drama. You can travel and see the world and join a group of peers who also feel lost, see the world differently, hone useless skills and decide where you want to be mentally and spiritually.

Of course, enrolling in a 'Gap Year' program will cost you through the nose, just like college, and in many cases it's just as financially wasteful as college enrollment. A 'Gap Year' program is said to cost between 6 and 14,000 dollars. You can't use a student loan or grant program. Gotta hit Dad's pocketbook.

There is even instruction on how to properly discuss your 'Gap Year' on your curriculum vitae (that's Millsaps for resume) so as to not turn off employers who might take a look at your background.

Not unlike sitting cross-legged on the streets of Aspen for a year, 'Gap Year' can be right for you or your eighteen-nineteen year old children.

Anonymous said...

Right, @Don Drane. In 15 years those are going to be hundred billion dollar football programs.

Anonymous said...

&:23 == It's not their job, but it is their job to match the "universities" with the need. And MUW and Valley are two that need to go.

Anonymous said...

(sigh) @ 11:58. As asked by 7:23, what should or could "elected idiots in Jackson" (or anywhere else) do about college enrollment.

Anonymous said...

Bill - it's easy to identify a problem; offering a solution, however, is a little tougher. Just what would you have the government do? For years China had a law about limiting the number of children a couple could have. Do you foresee a law in MS requiring couples to reproduce more frequently? As for the so called brain drain, other states are having their citizens leave by the bus load, perhaps for a different reason, but nonetheless they are leaving. Colleges have been in competition with other schools for decades. They overbuilt. They will survive, a little smaller perhaps. One last point - as much as we would like it, the government cannot solve all our problems.

Anonymous said...

Start by reducing number of counties, thence number of county bureaucracies and public schools. Use current population to combine as many as three counties into one, which could coincide with 2/3 of county bureaucrats getting their road papers. F the bloated government budgets, F the bloated public school budgets.

Anonymous said...

Aspen, despite its deserved reputation for celebrities, leftist conventions and primo drug snorting, is a very high energy town among locals. One will get shamed out of town for sitting cross-legged and accomplishing nothing. Even trust funder college dropouts are expert at some special, practiced skill if living in or near Aspen.

Maybe you are thinking of Portland, Seattle, Austin...

Anonymous said...

No, 9:59...I'm remembering Aspen. A mini Denver in the drug category. Drugs result often in high-energy and cross-legged sitting contemplating a bowl of lentils. Oohhhmmm

Anonymous said...

"Right, @Don Drane. In 15 years those are going to be hundred billion dollar football programs."

Right on, Bro...And by then, Deion Sanders will have coached his ninth consecutive Super Bowl win, following 5 years of winning the national college football title.

Wait for it.

Anonymous said...

This is not just a Mississippi trend, but nationwide. Many colleges are struggling right now to pay basic bills (see Birmingham-Southern college and their quest for a state hand-out without a plan to pay anything back).

The harsh reality is that Mississippi will just continue to fund the institutions rather than close some, and those schools will just pass higher costs along to the students.

Anonymous said...

First, the legislative brain trust must decide if MS is willing and able to support 8 public universities. If the answer is no, begin the consolidation process. If the answer is yes, develop a multi-tiered tuition/state support approach. The larger research universities (able to recruit regionally/nationally) would have larger tuition rates and less state support. The smaller regionals (more reliant on MS kids) would have lower tuition rates and more state support. Also, no one talks about state funds spent on institutional financial aid. MSU, Ole Miss, and USM are able to buy students with institutional financial aid which is compounding the problem for the small schools.

I understand and agree with Crawford's assessment of legislative action, but as practicing professionals (which is a stretch), IHL needs to recommend a path for the future.

Anonymous said...

Take Ole Miss as an example - something like 57% of their students come from out of state/country. Do you honestly think that THOSE alumni are going to donate the way the present day alumni of the last 50 years do? Hundreds of millions of dollars? Nope. Their endowment will drastically shrink over the next 30 years. Enjoy the last of it's glory days.

Anonymous said...

"Take Ole Miss as an example - something like 57% of their students come from out of state/country.

I'm amazed at that statistic, if accurate. Did you also know that 94% of the white sorority and fraternity members, during their first freshman shower, still had Delta-gumbo between their toes.

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