The University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi sought to increase student enrollment and student retention rates.


Under the leadership of a new president, the University of Southern Mississippi sought to increase student enrollment and student retention rates. Specific goals were set to increase the university’s market share of Mississippi high school graduates by 2 percent each year for five years and increase first-to-second year retention rates by 7 percent over four years.


The university wanted to bring in additional expertise for long-term strategic planning, so it turned to Noel-Levitz to guide the creation of a strategic enrollment plan. To aid in goal-development, the campus conducted research using the Ruffalo Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory™ for current students along with market research for traditional and non-traditional prospective students. Southern Miss also used financial aid research and econometric modeling to analyze the effects of financial aid awards on student enrollment. This research, coupled with training in recruitment strategies and using predictive modeling to identify which prospective students were likely to enroll, helped Southern Miss develop a holistic approach to enrollment and retention planning.

Research results prompted the university to undertake a new retention initiative and hire a new assistant provost for student success. Using results from the Student Satisfaction Inventory and recommendations from Ruffalo Noel Levitz consultants, the new assistant provost is implementing an early-alert system, has determined the areas where programs are needed most, and has targeted resources for student success more strategically.


Due to the university’s new strategic approach to recruitment and retention, Southern Miss saw a 2 percent increase in freshman to sophomore retention last year. In addition, new freshman enrollment increased by 5 percent and total enrollment increased by 3.4 percent. Now armed with a data-driven strategic plan, Southern Miss plans to build on this momentum in the coming years.


"When you have your consultant on your cell phone speed-dial, you know you have an irreplaceable, lasting relationship.

"Everyone at [Ruffalo Noel Levitz] knows there isn’t a manual for institutional success. They are able to gather resources from various places and do what’s right for your specific school and situation. The knowledge they leave at your fingertips is invaluable."

Kristi Motter
Associate Vice President for Enrollment

Case study used with the permission of University of Southern Mississippi.

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