Some Mississippi students are choosing alternate paths over college

University Enrollment Down

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi public university enrollment is down. It follows a downward trend from the last three years. But at the high school level, options for students who don’t choose a four year college are expanding.

Tyler Birdwell feels more at home in a body shop than a traditional classroom.

“People at my school they have the plan to go to college," explained Birdwell. "And they’ll take out loans and start automatically owing money to people.”

Birdwell says he’s always known college wasn’t a fit for him.

“The way I’d like to do it is why start out owing people when you can just get out the gate and get a job,” he noted.

He’s a student in the Madison County School District. And while they haven’t slowed down in the area of college prep, they’re simultaneously expanding the options for students like Birdwell.

“It’s based on our local needs here with businesses and community needs are what those programs are based on,” said Madison Career and Technical Center Principal Cody Zumbro.

The career and technical center offers a construction class, for example, where they’re building a slightly scaled down house.

“Construction is one of the fastest growing industries and the salaries for construction have continually rose over the past few years," added Zumbro. "So our construction program can prepare students to immediately go into the job and workforce.”

Mechanics are also in high demand with fewer folks choosing the career. The instructor says that’s making a pipeline to a job even better. Other students are leaving their options open.

“I wanted to go into some kind of field that required a lot of hands-on," said Germantown High School sophomore Seth Munoz. "Either I’m going to continue with this or become an engineer with a four year degree.”

And with the certifications they’ll have, they’ll also have the option to enter a well-paying job right out of high school.

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