New residence halls. Added online access.
Students aren't just looking to follow in a family member's
footsteps any longer.
They want amenities and options.
"Students today are very different from when their parents were
entering college," said Jeff Alford, an associate vice chancellor
at the University of Mississippi who has spent his 30-year academic
career working at universities in Florida, Indiana and Texas.
"They are much more consumer savvy," he said. "They have very
high expectations for things like their residence halls and campus
dining and what kinds of information they expect from the
In addition to providing students with a four-year degree or
more, schools also have increased their efforts to satisfy their
consumer side, often supplying new things.
"The new student, the consumer student, is not as patient as we
were," said Malvin Williams, interim president of Alcorn State
University who came to the school as a math teacher in 1966.
"They want to be able to use the Internet and do it now. They
don't want to wait in line. Colleges and universities have to adapt
to that. If they don't, they sort of get left behind."
Satisfying consumer students includes removing or enhancing
programs for a changing job market, new construction and keeping up
with options offered at other schools.
"Alcorn students want the same thing their friends have at
Harvard," Williams said. "If they are doing it at Harvard, (our
students) want to know why we're not doing it, and we have to adapt
as best as we can."
Programs are important, as are student IDs that double as debit
cards and computer access.
Students at Jackson State University now can access library
databases from computers anywhere, rather than just those on the
campus. Students at Mississippi Valley State University can pay $10
a night to stay in the residence halls between semesters.
And students lured in by the smell of new paint have plenty of
In a few weeks, Alcorn State will open the $12.6 million Clinton
Bristow Jr. Dining Facility. Recently, the University of Southern
Mississippi opened a new group of residence halls, representing the
completion of an $18 million project.
Ole Miss is opening a renovated Farley Hall, which will house
the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics. The
renovation and expansion are the result of a $7.5 million project.
A biotechnology building under construction at Alcorn will allow
the school to add new labs, perform new research and offer a
master's degree in the field.
"When you develop new academic programs and you have facilities
coming on board, they are attractive to students," Williams said.
A residence hall at Mississippi State helped 18-year-old Madison
resident Barrie Rhemann become a Bulldog rather than an Ole Miss
"(The rooms) were a lot nicer than anywhere else I looked,"
said Rhemann, who lives in Griffis Hall, one of Mississippi State's
new halls. "They are just so new. They are just more modern rooms
Ole Miss won't begin construction on its residence halls until
later this fall or in the spring. The school hasn't built a
residence hall since the early 1970s.
Rhemann isn't unusual. Students may consider as many as three to
five universities and campuses with outdated facilities may get
looked past, said Joe Argon, editor of American School and
"When you go to a campus, the things that they see, the
landscaping, the buildings, and the environment that is projected
is a big student grabber," Argon said.
Across the country, college campuses are booming with
construction. In 2006, construction spending topped $36 billion at
the country's academic institutions, according to a report by the
Since 1990, Mississippi's Legislature has approved more than $1
billion in bonds for construction projects.
Since 2003, Jackson State has opened two phases of one hall and
renovated another. In January, it opened Campbell Suites. Its
housing capacity has grown from about 2,500 to 2,600.
"It definitely affects recruiting and possibly retention,"
said Christopher Reed, JSU's assistant vice president for auxiliary
enterprises. "If you're a student ... and you love your
surroundings, that makes for a good living and learning
He said the school has seen an increased interest in student
"We anticipate the interest will go up," he said. "If we
build it, they will come."
Bricks and mortar aren't the only recruiting tools universities
Darya Shlapak is looking forward to eating in Alcorn's new
dining hall, but that's not what encouraged the now 25-year-old
graduate student from Russia to enroll at the Lorman school. It was
a scholarship program she heard about from another student.
"It's real difficult to get a job in Russia, even if you get a
decent education," said Shlapak, who earned an undergraduate
degree at Alcorn.
While demand may direct new features and construction, it's
still the faculty members who set the academic standards, Alford
However the relationship is viewed, schools are busy seeking
"Twenty years ago ... most universities, particularly state
universities, did not have marketing departments and marketing
campaigns and extensive communication programs," Alford said.
"Now, I would challenge you to find a university that doesn't have
a major marketing program and department responsible for that."
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger,