MSU enrollment growth presents challenges

Editor’s note: This is the second of two stories reporting on Mississippi State President Mark Keenum’s address to the university faculty during a campus meeting Friday afternoon.

Mississippi State’s rapid growth in student enrollment is exciting, but also presents some unique challenges, university President Mark Keenum says.
MSU has seen an record number of students on campus this fall. More than 2,700 first-time freshman and roughly 1,680 new transfer students have helped make the student body population the largest yet with 19,644 officially enrolled. That figure is an increase of 1,043 for last year’s fall enrollment.
“Rapid enrollment growth obviously presents challenges as we work to keep pace in faculty resources, in classroom space, and in student services,” Keenum told the MSU faculty during a general meeting Friday afternoon in Lee Hall.
“Let me assure you that we are focused on meeting those challenges and are developing plans to provide more faculty members, more classroom space, more parking space, more residence hall space, and all the things that go into ensuring the quality of the learning, living and working environment on our campus,” Keenum said.
Last month, the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning approved the initiation of a project to build a parking garage on campus to accommodate the ever-growing student population. An architect has already signed on for the project, but being in the very beginning stages, details such as size and location remain to be determined.
The major renovations of Harned Hall and Lloyd-Ricks Building are nearing completion, and the newest residence hall opened last month. The state-of-the-art facility included offices and classrooms.
“We will be planning aggressively this year for future additions to on-campus housing, which are urgently needed,” Keenum said.
The renovation of Lee Hall is top priority, which is only slightly ahead of the university’s need of a new, general classroom building that would include large auditoriums along with smaller classrooms and lab space.
A bond issue allocating $12 million will go towards the renovation of Lee Hall, though the project is estimated to cost between $18 million and $21 million.
“I hope that the next legislative session will provide additional funding to let the work get under way,” Keenum said. “As we plan for the renovation, we would like to increase the amount of space devoted to classrooms in Lee Hall.”
Keenum commended the provost and registrar for maximizing the efficient use of available classroom space, but a maximum enrollment of 22,000 is the most campus can accommodate, which is the expected enrollment for the year 2012 based on current growth rates.
“Long term, we need to look at moving more administrative functions to the periphery of campus to help concentrate classes in the central campus,” Keenum said. “Our top bond bill priority in the Ag Division is a classroom addition to the Wise Center, which would add two 125-seat auditoriums to serve primarily Veterinary Medicine and Animal and Dairy Sciences.”
Keenum said he was “particularly pleased” that the university awarded 3,700 degrees at all levels for the 2009-2010 academic year, including 144 doctoral degrees and 72 first-professional degrees in veterinary medicine.
The university is in the midst of the second Maroon Edition Habitat for Humanity building project along with the second Maroon Edition common reading program with Greg Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea.”
MSU is collecting backpacks and other school supplies for the children of Afghanistan in conjunction with Lamia Afghan Foundation.
“I continue to be impressed by the generosity of our students, faculty and staff,” Keenum said.