The Mississippi government shows its dedication to education by offering about $30 million annually to support the state's college students. More than 238,000 students took advantage of opportunities at Mississippi's 64 colleges, universities and career schools in 2013. One out of every 122 U.S. college students attends Mississippi institutions of higher learning, enrolled in certificate or degree programs ranging from the associate to the PhD level. Would-be scholars have an array of choices, as shown in the table below, including religious schools, career and technical institutes, online schools and universities:
|College Type||Number in Mississippi|
|Private not-for-profit (religious affiliation)||9|
Top Cities in Mississippi for College Education
When hunting for the right college, Mississippi students can explore locations in small towns, mid-sized urban centers and major cities. Students with a long commute may investigate options for distance learning, whether that means one class or a fully online degree program. Here's an overview of the areas with the most colleges and students in Mississippi:
Most Popular Cities for College Students (Total)
- Hattiesburg (20,100)
- Raymond (16,800)
- Jackson (15,800)
- Perkinston (15,100)
- Senatobia (11,400)
Mississippi Urban Centers with the Most Colleges (Total)
- Jackson (14)
- Hattiesburg (5)
- Gulfport (4)
- Meridian (2)
- Clinton (2)
A Look at Colleges & Universities in Jackson
Mississippi’s capital and largest city hosts numerous colleges, including Jackson State University, the fourth largest institution of higher education in the state. Jackson area students can also choose from options such as Mississippi College, the state's oldest university and the country's second oldest Baptist school. In addition, Jackson is home to Belhaven University, a four-year Christian liberal arts college that has the honor of hosting the International Ballet Competition.
Jackson's Millsaps College, with historical ties to the Methodist Church, attracts more than half of its undergraduates from outside Mississippi. Academic offerings include a self-designed major or field study at the college's own biocultural reserve in Mexico's Yucatan region. Another educational pioneer in Jackson is Tougaloo College, known for its support of the 1960s Civil Rights movement. A private, historically black, liberal arts institution, Tougaloo features 29 bachelor's degrees and three associate degrees. Situated on 500 acres at the northern edge of the city, this church-related college welcomes applicants of all backgrounds.
Overview of Online Academics in Jackson
Jackson's universities provide flexible learning options. Tougaloo uses web-based modules in hybrid programs for continuing education certificates, while Millsaps incorporates online components in its accelerated MBA program, allowing high school seniors to earn an MBA in five years. Belhaven's online offerings span associate, bachelor's and master's degrees as well as certificate programs. Mississippi College serves working adults through accelerated online degree and certificate programs. Among its online majors are business administration, paralegal studies and loss prevention. Internet-based graduate programs include specialized degrees, for example, a master's in applied communication with an emphasis in health services administration. Some online degrees such as nursing and athletic administration require practical or clinical experience in addition to academic courses.
Jackson State University, another option for distance learning, requires online faculty to study distance learning methodology, and it advises e-learners to take Blackboard orientation training. JSU delivers individual courses electronically in subjects such as biology, criminal justice and psychology. Graduate students can enroll in programs such as an online MBA or an online master's in sport science. JSU also awards a hybrid bachelor's degree in professional interdisciplinary studies with the option of specializing in faith-based leadership or human resource development. This adult learners program incorporates cooperative learning groups, weekend course schedules, interactive video classes and online instruction.
Online Colleges in Mississippi
Mississippi colleges can provide numerous possibilities for remote study, whether academic goals focus on career training, a four-year degree or graduate studies. This adoption of distance learning follows a nationwide trend -- in 2012, the Babson Survey Research Group reported that 32 percent of higher education students in the U.S. accessed at least one online course. Among Mississippi colleges, 10 four-year schools provided some type of web-based coursework in 2013. For more information on these schools, check out the list below. Each school entry includes detailed info on tuition, enrollment and how its distance learning programs and courses continue to help Mississippi students work toward a degree.
Tuition, Fees and Cost of Living
Before enrolling, aspiring students in Mississippi need to calculate the different costs associated with each college under consideration. First and foremost, a budget should allocate funds for tuition, which can vary according to the type of school and a student's eligibility for resident status. Mississippi colleges might offer a comparative cost advantage, with low in-state tuition rates ranking 5th in the nation for affordability. In 2012, yearly tuition averaged $7,151 for students who qualified as state residents.
Budgeting for Mississippi students extends beyond tuition to related costs such as college fees. Schools may charge for services such as registration, orientation or late schedule changes. College websites generally outline the various fees, which could fund campus government, student legal services, intramural sports or recreation facilities. In 2012, Mississippi college students encountered tuition and fees totaling $7,964 for the school year.
Collegiate financial planning also takes into account the prices for books, supplies and a trustworthy network connection, if needed for web research or submitting assignments online. Room and board can represent a significant chunk of the total budget. Campus living may tempt a student with extra expenses such as concerts and late-night pizzas, whereas apartment dwellers can manage the bottom line by shopping for groceries and cooking meals -- if they have the time and self-discipline.
Some good news for cash-conscious students: Mississippi ranks as one of the least expensive states in the U.S., with living costs estimated at 8 percent below the national average. This table compares the cost of living (COL) of Mississippi metropolitan areas with the national average (100%):
|Urban Area||Composite Index||Housing||Groceries||Utilities||Transportation||Health Care||Misc.|
Tuition, fees and cost of living comprise three of the most important financial factors when vetting colleges. However, students should also consider job prospects and salary expectations after graduation. In other words, what value will a degree from your target school have? The following list shows the top schools in Mississippi for return on investment (ROI), factoring in the total cost of attendance at each school, subtracted from the average lifetime earnings of its graduates:
- Mississippi State University
- University of Mississippi
- Millsaps College
- Delta State University
- University of Southern Mississippi
Financial Aid and Scholarships
If the projected budget for college seems daunting, Mississippi students can research options for support from public programs, individual schools and a variety of associations. When seeking assistance, students typically begin by demonstrating financial need in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Government support can make a difference in achieving academic goals -- in 2012, Mississippi ranked 1st in the country for federal aid, which reached 80 percent of the state's undergraduate students.
Mississippi's support for education extends to the Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Plan, which helps state residents avoid cost increases by locking in rates for tuition and mandatory fees. Public initiatives include the Mississippi Resident Tuition Assistance Grant, the Higher Education Legislative Plan for Needy Students (HELP), and the Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant.
In addition to federal and state programs, certain Mississippi colleges offer financial assistance and scholarships. Students may also discover funding from numerous private, religious, nonprofit and trade associations, for example:
- America Reads – Mississippi AmeriCorps
- American Quarter Horse Foundation (AQHF) Swayze Woodruff Memorial Mid-South Scholarship
- American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) Southeast Chapter Professional Development Scholarship
- Bird Dog Foundation Essay Contest
- Dixie Boys Baseball Bernie Varnadore Scholarship Program
- Dixie Youth Baseball Scholarship
- Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi Scholarships
- Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers and Firemen (LAW/FIRE) Scholarship
- National Association of Junior Auxiliaries (NAJA) Graduate Scholarship
Individuals conducting a college search need to examine accreditation status in addition to monetary factors and academic offerings. Financial aid programs typically require colleges to be accredited by an official association that outlines quality standards for educational institutions. Mississippi colleges awarding postsecondary degrees can seek accreditation from organizations such as the Commission on Colleges for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (http://www.sacscoc.org).
Prospective students in Mississippi can exercise their math and research skills by analyzing the many variables influencing decisions about higher education: Can the budget cover charges for room and board in addition to tuition and fees? Is there still time to apply for a scholarship or financial aid? Students can refer to the data presented here as they evaluate the options. The profiles below describe more specific features of Mississippi colleges, such as online courses and programs.
AC Online: Ranking the Most Affordable Online Colleges in Mississippi
Online distance learning students have an abundance of choices among online schools in Mississippi. Fully accredited, these online programs provide the same degrees and certifications that can be found on campus. Fully online four-year degree programs in Mississippi can claim unsurpassed tuition assistance, award-winning professors, and extensive curriculum choices. These factors, combined with the flexibility of online colleges in Mississippi, make the accredited, fully online, top-tier colleges on our list great choices. If you’re looking for a school with lowest tuition, our value comparisons are easy to navigate. Best of luck to you as you find the right online college in Mississippi for you.Click here to see our methodology.