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Mississippi Universities Expand Net to Get Nontraditional Students

Mississippi Universities Expand Net to Get Nontraditional Students

In his distinctive coat and tie, Corey Moore is often mistaken for a professor walking around Mississippi Valley State University.

Moore, 31, moves about the Itta Bena campus with a determined spirit to earn a degree in public administration, much like he did during a decade in the Naval Reserve.

“I found my way to Valley by divine intervention,” Moore said. “I felt I could be a student who could enlighten and help to inspire the more traditional students.”

Schools, public and private, are developing programs to attract students such as Moore. Institutions are recognizing the benefits of having nontraditional students, classified as students 25 and older, on campus for their leadership and the bottom line.

Enrollment of nontraditional students increased 17.8 percent from 1999-2004. The state College Board said 11,847 nontraditional students were enrolled in the eight state universities last year.

“When I attended school several years ago, I was not as driven as I am now,” said Moore, a junior.

Moore finished Clarksdale High in 1992 and joined the Naval Reserve in San Diego. He took courses at Coahoma Community College in 1994-95. He enrolled at Valley in 2002. He’s using Pell Grants, student loans and some of his savings to get through Valley.

At MVSU, more than 44 percent of the university’s undergraduates are nontraditional students. The school has been so successful at attracting nontraditional students that the university built a $17.4 million apartment complex, where Moore lives.

“Many are married and have young children, and they can’t live in a dorm,” President Lester Newman said of the older students. “The apartment complex is a tremendous help. We have also made a concerted effort to add more evening and weekend courses.”

Colleges and universities around the state are using similar approaches to attract nontraditional students.

Alcorn State University President Clinton Bristow Jr. said he will recruit older students when the school offers casino management courses at its Vicksburg and Natchez campuses next year. He expects to attract 500 more students to the Vicksburg campus in five years.

Mississippi College, a private Baptist school in Clinton, recently began offering evening courses at a Madison church to make getting an education more convenient for working adults. Belhaven College, a private Presbyterian school in Jackson, has campuses this fall in Memphis, Orlando and now Houston, Texas, that serve adults.

Mississippi University for Women student Cindy Moody drives 128 miles round trip to work on her teaching degree at the Columbus school. Her 20-year-old daughter, Courtnee Graham, attends classes with her.

“It’s been hectic, but I will adjust,” said Moody, who works as a substitute teacher. She graduated with her daughter last May at East Central Community College in Decatur. “It’s getting better every day.”

Associated Press

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