Enrollment has gone up 11 percent. Fall 2016 has the largest group of international students yet. More students are obtaining degrees, with a 206 percent growth since 2011.
Recent awards include the highest-ranked Mississippi university on Washington Monthly’s “Best Bang for the Buck” list, a fifth year on the Washington Monthly’s list of Top 100 Master’s Schools in the nation and another year on U.S. News & World Report’s top 20 public Southern regional universities.
In other words, it’s a good time to be a W student.
Being the top Mississippi university on the “Best Bang for the Buck” list is particularly telling, since the award is given based on a number of factors, including affordability. The W has the lowest tuition rate among public universities in Mississippi and offers many scholarships and service awards to its students. These include the Presidential Award and Kincannon Award for first-year students, as well alumni, transfer and departmental scholarships.
The availability of scholarships was especially attractive to international students like Urusha Silwal, a sophomore and communication major.
“I got a Presidential scholarship with a waiver, too, and that way, it was very easy for me to pay my fees,” said Silwal. “Financially, I think it’s very easy for international students to fund their education in the States.”
Another factor is the university’s involvement in its community. The W prides itself on student involvement in the community. The Office of Community Service on campus helps students find volunteer opportunities through events such as community service fairs and projects during Blues Week. In the first week of classes, W students completed approximately 300 service hours in the Columbus area.
However, students aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits.
The Chronicle of Higher Education surveyed almost 300 universities and decided The W was one of the best colleges in the country for which to work. The award is given based on survey ratings from university employees. The results of the survey ranked The W highly in collaborative governance, job satisfaction, respect and appreciation, teaching environment and tenure clarity and process.
One of the reasons for the high rankings is the size of The W. With a ratio of only 14 students per teacher and less than 30 students in most classes, faculty is able to develop a more personable relationship with students.
Dr. Paul Mack, a biology instructor, said the smaller size is his favorite part of working at The W.
“I actually get to know the students, and if they ask me to write a letter of recommendation, at least I have something to say,” said Mack. “I know their names and I know something about them. I know something about what they want to do with their lives, and I even know some stuff about them just as people, which is great.”
Dr. Bridget Pieschel, English professor and W alumna, agreed with Mack. Pieschel said there are a lot of reasons why The W is a great place to work, and size is one of the most important.
“It’s a school that is small enough that faculty and students can develop close intellectual and personal relationships,” said Pieschel. “I can follow my students through their careers. I can see how they do and what their successes are and hear what their children’s names are.”
Pieschel also commended The W for the way it helps students develop critical and creative thinking skills.
“We do focus on everybody, from the person who hasn’t turned 17 yet to the woman who’s decided that she wants to come back and get a degree after she retires from working at a bank for 25 years,” said Pieschel. “The W has a specific mission of targeting people who might not have the chance at a world-class education if we didn’t have it to offer to them for an amazingly low tuition.”
Lastly, Pieschel applauded The W for its reputation around the world.
“There’s no place that I’ve been around the world that I haven’t been able to find some sort of historical or personal connection with the W history or people,” said Pieschel. “It is an amazing, unbroken chain. If you got your education here and you meet each other someplace and they say, ‘Where did you go to school in Mississippi?’ and you tell them The W, they’ll say, ‘I did, too!’”