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By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Mississippi University for Women is focused on trying to help the state’s adults earn college degrees.

Roughly a quarter of the public, liberal arts university’s 3,500-student enrollment consists of non-traditional students, its president since January said during an editorial board meeting with the Daily Journal on Monday. It is a niche the college will continue trying to hit, Jim Borsig said.

Non-traditional students are those who are older than age 25.

“We want to raise the educational attainment rate in Mississippi,” Borsig said, referring to the percentage of adults who have at least a bachelor’s degree. “There are not enough high school students to have a large enough impact. We also need to focus on non-traditional students to have any impact on that number.”

Borsig, who also spoke to Tupelo’s Rotary Club on Monday, said Mississippi has about a half million adults between ages 25 and 64 whose highest level of education is either an associate’s degree or having attended college without receiving a degree. MUW tries to reach those students through its relationship with the state’s community colleges, Borsig said.

It also does so with a robust distance learning program that has the third highest enrollment among Mississippi public universities. MUW currently has about 1,000 students enrolled in its online courses, trailing only Southern Miss (1,900 students) and Mississippi State (1,500).

“There are community college students who are place-bound because of jobs or families and want to finish a four-year degree,” Borsig said.

Ninety percent of the university’s students are Mississippi residents, but Borsig said it is also looking at attracting more non-Mississippi students, including possibly waiving out-of-state tuition for some target areas in Alabama and Tennessee. To do so, it is trying to enhance its on-campus environment.

Plans include renovating two dormitories that are on the national registry of historic buildings but were damaged in a tornado 10 years ago. The university is also studying the possibility of adding athletics, which were also discontinued after the tornado.

Less than a third of MUW’s students currently live on campus. Borsig said the campus could accommodate about another 1,000 resident students.

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