It’s official: Pearl River is Mississippi’s fastest growing community college
POPLARVILLE, Miss. -- For the second year in a row Pearl River Community College is a trail blazer among its counterparts in the state.
On Monday, the Mississippi Community College Board announced preliminary enrollment for the fall of 2019 and once again Pearl River is at the head of the class. According to the 10th day enrollment report published by the Mississippi Community College Board, Pearl River is the fastest growing school of Mississippi’s 15 community colleges. PRCC boasts an enrollment of 5,374 with 72,829 credit hours in fall of 2019. Comparing this year’s numbers to fall of ‘18, Pearl River’s enrollment has climbed 7.2 percent and the school’s credit hours have also climbed 6.4 percent, giving PRCC year over year growth that’s unmatched.
“This a great day to be a Wildcat,” Pearl River President Dr. Adam Breerwood said. “This report is a testament to the incredible work of our faculty, staff and Board of Trustees. We are honored so many students have selected Pearl River Community College to provide the educational foundation for their future. Despite enrollment decreases around the State our college continues to grow at a record setting pace. We remain dedicated to continued expansion efforts to better serve our surrounding communities. I am blown away by this preliminary enrollment report. The River is Rising!”
The numbers show Pearl River’s success is not a passing fad. Not only has PRCC shown growth from fall ’18 to fall ’19, but the school is the only community college in Mississippi to see growth for seven consecutive semesters.
Breerwood attributes Pearl River’s continued growth to a mantra he believes in to his core by “removing obstacles that impede education.” The student-centered belief is more than just talk. Over the course of Breerwood’s tenure as president, Pearl River has seen troubling trends elsewhere in higher level education and has sought to be proactive by diversifying curriculum, revitalizing student orientation, expanding student services that increase retention, increasing scholarship opportunities and upgrading facilities.
With the ever evolving scope of skills necessary to penetrate the workforce coupled with the demand for flexible learning platforms, PRCC has developed numerous partnerships and unique opportunities.
“Enrollment at Pearl River has consistency and even growth because the mission is embraced,” PRCC Vice President for Poplarville Campus and Instruction Services Dr. Martha Smith said. We strive to provide opportunities for where people are now and where they want to be in the future—opportunities such as career and technical programs that lead straight to the workforce, online classes that provide flexibility, and dual enrollment situations that encourage students to smoothly bridge between high school and higher education.”
REVITALIZING STUDENT ORIENTATION
Making sure students feel prepared for the first day of class is a large part of what PRCC is doing to make the transition to college as smooth as possible. The Office of Student Success facilitates that process through its recently revamped new student orientation.
“Over the past three years, participation in ROAR, which is our new student orientation program, has experienced an overall increase of 16 percent,” said Dr. Amy Townsend, PRCC’s Associate Vice President for Student Success. “. “As we have tracked our first cohort through graduation, we have seen a 10% increase in retention for our most at-risk students that have participated in both ROAR and FYS. In addition to increased retention, students participating in ROAR and FYS have achieved increases in credit hours attempted/earned, GPA and graduation rates.
“Restructuring PRCC’s advisement process has impacted enrollment growth. We are making preparations now to provide ROAR and FYS for all incoming students starting next summer.”
EXPANDING STUDENT SERVICES
Providing support for new students beyond orientation is also a priority for PRCC. Making sure they have the accessibility to resources that aid in the student’s ability to keep their end goals in focus continues to be part of the mission. Newly developed eLearning opportunities, interactive parent sessions, and peer mentoring are all geared toward giving students the support they need in order to succeed.
“We have numerous services and programs that help to contribute to our students’ success and retention,” said Student Success Center Coordinator Whitney Chambers. “Because of our success at ROAR, students are learning about our resources early and are able to take advantage of them. Offerings such as tutoring, computer labs, study areas, and additional advisement time have a positive impact on the students we interact with in the Office of Student Success.”
INCREASING SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITES
Providing scholarship opportunities for new and returning students has been a primary focus for Pearl River. Service based scholarships such as band, choir and athletics foster an environment conducive to being a well-rounded student. Over the last three years, the Development Foundation has dramatically increased its level of support, offering 288 scholarships in the fall 2019 semester alone.
The increase in available support for scholarships is due primarily to increased support from public and private foundations and the good fiscal management of endowed investments that are dedicated for student’s scholarships.
As if the school’s enrollment and course hours alone weren’t impressive enough, Pearl River currently has a dorm waiting list of 710 students.
PRCC is in the process of accommodating a large portion of those students by building two new dorms, which will include about 260 beds. PRCC’s Poplarville campus is also currently expanding its science building, which will house new labs, classrooms and offices. The college anticipates breaking ground on a new Hancock Center this school year and the Forrest County Center is booming with upcoming renovations and new construction on the horizon.
“We have seen tremendous growth and retention at the Forrest County Center,” said Vice President for Forrest County Operations Dr. Jana Causey. “We attribute these increases to talented faculty who work tirelessly to promote, retain and change student lives; and to our local Forrest County Supervisors and Hattiesburg Mayor, Toby Barker, for investing in the education of our citizens.”
Please also see (Enrollment Announcement video link)
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