Best Colleges in Mississippi

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With dozens of universities, private institutions and community colleges, Mississippi offers a wide range of educational opportunities. From the 20,000+ enrolled at Mississippi State University to the 555 enrolled at Blue Mountain College, the state attracts students from across the country. Part of the draw may be its ranking as one of the least expensive states in the nation. While this is a plus, we realize many other factors also go into the school selection process. To aid in this decision-making, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Mississippi, including the top four-year and two-year schools.

We have included essential factors in our database creation, including acceptance, retention, graduation and enrollment rates. Keeping in mind today’s students’ growing concern over post-graduation debt, we have also included the metric of student loan default percentages. Using these critical elements in our algorithm, we provide you with the best of the best. The following is a showcase of the results: the top two-year and four-year colleges in Mississippi.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

Recent statistics revealed that less than half of the students enrolled at public colleges in Mississippi were attending four-year schools. Mississippi’s postsecondary education system as a whole awards fewer bachelor’s degrees than the national average. However, the University of Mississippi in Oxford, established in 1848, continues to draw students from around the globe. The state’s other biggest four-year school, Mississippi State University, was ranked among the leading major research universities in the nation by the Carnegie Foundation.

These and other institutions continue to offer significant opportunities for four-year education in Mississippi. At the top of this list of opportunities is financial savings. Mississippi students pay less than the national average for four-year tuition and fees. Also top-ranking is medical career opportunities. Renowned as the site of the world’s first heart and lung transplants, the University of Mississippi Medical Center is one of the largest employers in the state. With many options offering varied prospects, we have streamlined the decision-making process by offering the following list of the top four-year schools in Mississippi.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

Mississippi University for Women

 2/539.29%Columbus, MS


Established in 1884, and the first public women’s college in the US, Mississippi University for Women offers graduate and undergraduate degrees and is consistently ranked as one of the best colleges in Mississippi. Popular undergraduate degrees include: Nursing, Elementary Education, Psychology and Business Administration. Popular Master Degrees include: Nursing, Speech-Language Pathology, Master of Education in Reading/Literacy and Health Education. The MS in Global Commerce degree is offered online, and the Physical Theater MFA is offered in Tuscany, Italy.

In 2015 a low-residency MFA in Creative Writing will be offered combining online and on-campus classes designed to aid working students. Notable alumni include many politicians, justices and authors.

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Millsaps College

 5/564.29%Jackson, MS


Millsaps College is associated with the United Methodist Church but offers a secular curriculum. Unlike any other college in Mississippi, undergraduate candidates take oral and written comprehensive exams to qualify for their degrees. The James Observatory, built in 1901, is the oldest building on campus and is open for stargazing.

Millsaps guarantees graduation within four years, or the college will waive all tuition and fees required to finish a bachelor degree. Millsaps is also ranked as one of the best colleges in Mississippi to offer study abroad opportunities, with programs in Tanzania, France, Albania, Japan and the Yucatan in Mexico. Notable alumni include numerous authors.

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Mississippi Valley State University

 2/529.82%Itta Bena, MS


The university offers diverse undergraduate degrees from Engineering Technology, Criminal Justice and Information Technology, to Social Work, Fine Arts and Business Administration. The graduate school offers 10 degrees including the MA in Convergent Media, MS in Bioinformatics and MA in Rural Public Policy and Planning. Student organizations include the Student Government, English Club, and the Trades and Industries club. The campus also features the BB King Recording Studio and a Radio Station.

The school recently completed a $17.5 million renovation to its multi-purpose sports arena, with upgrades to the track, fitness center and technology classrooms. Notable alumni include numerous NFL players.

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University of Southern Mississippi

 2/548.44%Hattiesburg, MS


The University of Southern Mississippi is ranked as a one of the best colleges in Mississippi to offer extensive study abroad options including programs in London, as well as being a top university for Polymer Science and Engineering research and for the excellence of its Center for Writers. It is also one of the only colleges in Mississippi to hold national accreditation for both business and accounting programs by the AACSB International Association for Management Education.

Student groups cover a wide variety of interests, and include: Athletics, Military and Community Service groups, an African-American Student Organization, Honor Society and Baptist Student Union.

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Blue Mountain College

 2/546.15%Blue Mountain, MS


This private liberal arts Baptist college is ranked as one of the best liberal arts colleges in Mississippi and offers programs in Biblical and Associated Studies, Business, Education as well as Natural Sciences, Kinesiology and Behavior Sciences among others. The college offers an online Library Media certification program and numerous dual degree programs in Health with Baptist College of Health Sciences. The main campus is housed on 44-acres with 54% of the 544 students living on-campus.

The school recently added Baseball and Softball to its athletic program and now offers men and women’s Golf. The school is home to six national honor societies.

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University of Mississippi

 2/561.36%University, MS

University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) is the largest university in the state, with over 23,000 students enrolled. The campus was declared a National Historic Site in 2010 to commemorate the victims of the 1962 riot.

Popular majors include: Education and Teaching, Marketing, Finance and Pharmaceutical Sciences as well as Business Administration and Criminal Justice. It is one of the only colleges in Mississippi to offer a program in intelligence analysis through the Center for Intelligence and Security Studies. The campus ROTC program is nationally recognized, as is the School of Pharmacy for its community service work.

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Mississippi State University

 2/560.43%Mississippi State, MS

The main campus of Mississippi State University covers 4,200-acres encompassing 160 buildings and is home to over 20,000 students. The Mitchell Memorial Library contains over 2 million volumes and is one of the only colleges in Mississippi to house extensive presidential documents. Mississippi State hosts the annual “Bulldog Bash”, the largest outdoor concert in the state.

The University offers diverse degree programs, many of them highly ranked for minority student success. Research expenditures topped $210 million in 2014 and the school produced a 2014 Rhodes Scholar (Donald M. “Field” Brown). Check out the school’s many accomplishments here.

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Belhaven University

 3/550.21%Jackson, MS

This private Christian liberal arts university teaches from a Christian worldview. It is one of the only colleges in Mississippi to be nationally accredited in Visual Arts, Music, Dance and Theater. The university offers many unique religious courses through the Division of Ministry and Human Services and the Department of Biblical Studies and Ministries. 27 undergraduate degrees are available, with unique graduate offerings in Dance, Sports Administration and Public Administration.

Campus student organizations include 8 honor societies and groups dedicated to Social Work, Sports Ministry and Urban Dance. Notable alumni include Elizabeth Spencer, author of The Light in the Piazza.

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Mississippi College

 3/553.52%Clinton, MS

Mississippi College is the oldest college in Mississippi, and is home to over 5,000 students. The campus holds many Civil War-era buildings with a new 20,000 square foot medical sciences building being added in 2013. A 106,000 square foot Baptist Healthplex serves as a hub for fitness and health services and houses the Physician Assistant program, the only program of its kind and unique to colleges in Mississippi.

Brand new graduate degrees in Health Informatics and Graphic Design as well as undergraduate degrees in Worship Leadership and Early Childhood Education were added in 2015.

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Jackson State University

 2/543.18%Jackson, MS

Enrollment at Jackson State University jumped 11% from ’12-’15, with approximately 10,000 students enrolled currently at this historically black college. The campus contains a unique botanical garden as well as the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. Notable alumni include many NFL players and musicians.

A unique Executive Ph.D. in Urban Higher Education program is offered as well as new degrees in Educational Technology and Support Services. The Undergraduate Studies group is an advocate group that provides quality assurance to first and second year students. The Bridge To The Future summer program provides incoming STEM students an opportunity to earn up to 9 credits of coursework with free tuition and board.

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Delta State University

 2/532.29%Cleveland, MS

Delta State University’s main campus is situated on 332 acres of land near Cleveland, MS and provides graduate and undergraduate curriculum to 4,000 students. The school has a large flight school, unique among colleges in Mississippi, and offers a Commercial Aviation degree.

The school also offers a unique program through the Delta Music Institute as well as a highly regarded Geospatial Information Technology program. Delta State University also offers a highly ranked Online RN to BSN Nursing program. The Gender Studies Group meets bi-monthly and hosts lectures and student showcases. Notable alumni include numerous professional athletes.

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Mississippi’s two-year schools provide courses for a university track, technical skills, industry-specific education, general education and GED preparation. The state’s fifteen community and junior colleges make up the Mississippi Community College Board. The Mississippi Community College Foundation was created to support these community colleges and their students. It provides grants, scholarships, special licensure and other helpful programs. A recent ranking of community colleges nationwide gave Mississippi top standings, with five of its schools slotted in the top 100 and two in the top 15. The state’s two-year schools are also ranked as some of the more affordable. Students pay less than the national average for two-year tuition and fees. To help choose which of these opportunities is best for you, we offer the following list of the top two-year schools in Mississippi.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

Coahoma Community College

 1/520.59%Clarksdale, MS


The 99-acre Coahoma Community College campus is located in western Coahoma County in an agrarian area close to the Mississippi River. A quiet lake nearby provides a picturesque backdrop to this community-centered college. The school offers many diverse areas of study including: Sports Coaching and Management, Criminal Justice, Fine Arts, and Architecture. Technical degrees include programs in Early Childhood Education Technology, Masonry, Carpentry, and Hotel and Restaurant Management. The communal spirit and range of program offerings make this school one of the best colleges in Mississippi.

The annual Tennessee Williams Festival is sponsored by the College and features a literary conference that includes film screenings, theater, and art showings, as well as blues and gospel performances.

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Pearl River Community College

 1/519.5%Poplarville, MS


Pearl River Community College was founded in 1909 and offers vocational and continuing education programs, with on-campus, distance learning, weekend, and night classes available. Dual enrollment is possible for high school students seeking college credits, making it an attractive option among Mississippi colleges. Courses in Web Development, Truck-Driving, and Accounting as well as medical certificates are offered.

The College football team, the Wildcats, won four straight MACJC championships in ‘03-’06, as well as the 2004 NJCAA championship. Alum Larry Brackins was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2005 NFL draft. Other famous alumni include singer Jimmy Buffett (’67), and former MLB first baseman Rhyne Hughes.

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East Central Community College

 1/522.63%Decatur, MS


East Central Community College serves a 5-county district in east central Mississippi and offers on-campus, e-learning, and hybrid classes in career, technical, and workforce training as well as adult basic education. Evening and weekend courses are available, making it a great option among Mississippi colleges for students with busy schedules. A comprehensive Workforce Development department offers training in numerous fields including CAD, Electronics, Online Industrial Maintenance, small business development, healthcare instruction, and computer applications.

Notable Alumni include: Phyliss J. Anderson, Tribal Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, baseball player Tim Anderson, NFL football player Kendrick Clancy, and country music singers Billy Dean and Randy Houser.

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Southwest Mississippi Community College

 1/527%Summit, MS


Southwest Mississippi Community College offers academic transfer, career and technical training, evening, online, and workforce development programs. Student groups include: Campus Ministries and Pine Burr, the campus newspaper. Concert Band, Choir, Theater for Young Audiences, and a Steel Drum Ensemble are just some of the artistic opportunities offered through the Fine Arts Department, making this school a great choice among Mississippi colleges for students seeking creative growth.

Career and technical degrees include programs in Automotive Technology, Carpentry, Commercial Truck Driving, Practical Nursing and Health Information Technology. Evening courses are offered if 10 or more students are registered. Financial assistance for students in career-technical training programs is available through the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act.

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Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College

 1/525.73%Perkinston, MS


The main campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College offers a unique 50,949 square-foot Hospitality Resort Management Center and The Estuarine Education Center, which allows students to explore the natural environment with birding, photography, and paddling activities. It is located on 33 acres of woodlands and wetlands with 1.5 miles of trails and hiking. The Outdoor Recreation Leadership Center serves students in this associate degree program and includes indoor rock-climbing and a scenic deck, making for a particularly favorable destination among colleges in Mississippi for lovers of the great outdoors..

The College was nominated for the Aspen Institute Prize for Community College Excellence in 2013 and was a top-10 finalist in 2011. Famous alumni include numerous American Football players.

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Northwest Mississippi Community College

 1/519.37%Senatobia, MS

The Senatobia, MS campus is located on 247 acres and is home to approximately 900 students. The college offers continuing education, technical training and workforce developing. Northwest Mississippi Community College has been recognized as a top provider in online education, and eLearning programs include: Accountancy, Business Administration, Outdoor Recreation and Management, and Criminal Justice. The Lafayette-Yalobusha Technical Center in Oxford, MS is a great resource for Surgical Technology students, with opportunities to observe surgical procedures and dissections. The Graphic Design Technology program trains students in visual communication.

Over 30 student organizations are active on campus. Notable alumni include 15 NFL players, a high number even among other Mississippi colleges.

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Mississippi Delta Community College

 1/520.35%Moorhead, MS

The Mississippi Delta Community College main campus is located in Moorhead and offers workforce training at the Charles W. Capps, Jr. Technology Center in Indianola. The Greenville Higher Education Center partners with Delta State University and Mississippi Valley State University, enabling student to finish a 4-year degree program in one location. An honors program is offered through the National Technical Honor Society.

The Dual enrollment program enables students in high school to earn college credit, making the school an attractive option among colleges in Mississippi. The Silent Witness form enables students to anonymously report campus safety issues, and the Academic Counseling and Recruiting office offers students career advising and student orientation resources.

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Southeastern Baptist College

 1/580%Laurel, MS

Southeastern Baptist College’s motto is: “Serving Christ with a Biblical Worldview in a Christian Atmosphere.” This highly religious organization offers small class sizes with personal attention from instructors, and specializes in Christian hospitality and student satisfaction. Student groups include a college choir, Association of Baptists Students, the Ministerial Alliance, and the Student Government. A division of Biblical studies provides comprehensive study of biblical language and theology, making the school an attractive option among Mississippi colleges for students interested in pursuing a career focused on the Christian religion.

The 28-acre main campus is located in Laurel, MS, with associate degree programs in Bible, Business, and General Education. A Bachelor of Science degree in Church Ministries is offered.

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Jones County Junior College

 1/530.35%Ellisville, MS

Jones County Junior College offers over 80 courses online. University Parallel programs include Bachelor of Art, Music, Agricultural Science, Dental Hygiene (BS), Veterinary Medicine, and many more. Scholarships are offered via the JCJC Foundation. A newly formed Student Success Center helps students with registration assistance, scheduling, tutoring, and career development.

Athletics form a large part of the JCJC community and teams participate in Baseball, Basketball, Cheerleading, Football, Golf, Soccer, Softball, and Tennis, making the school a popular choice among colleges in Mississippi for students interested in sports. Each year, notable athletes are recognized in the school sports hall of fame. Notable alumni include two NFL players and a state senator (Charles W. Pickering).

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Copiah-Lincoln Community College

 1/525.83%Wesson, MS

Copiah-Lincoln Community College (Co-Lin) offers courses in continuing education and the first two years of a 4-year degree. The ed2go program offers online interactive courses in Accounting and Finance, Business, Computer Applications, Design, Language, Law, and Writing. The Institute for Learning in Retirement Program serves students over the age of 50 who are retired or semi-retired.

The Eta Omega organization was recognized twice as a top Phi Theta Kappa chapter in the Nation. The Men’s tennis team was #1 Team of the Year in the NJCAA in ’05, ’07, and ’08. Famous alumni include NFL and AFL players. In 2013, more student athletes were recognized for academic excellence than any other college in the state, marking it as one of the best colleges in Mississippi.

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Itawamba Community College

 1/531.38%Fulton, MS

Excellence in academics and athletics are hallmarks of Itawamba Community College. Over 80% of students receive financial aid or scholarships. Classes are offered at day, night, afternoons, or weekends as well as online. The school is the state’s largest provider of online education, making it one of the best colleges in Mississippi. The Health Science Education programs include associate degrees in Nursing, Emergency Medical Sciences – Paramedic, Occupational Therapy Assistant, and Surgical Technology.

The average class size is 20-35 students with a student to teacher ratio of 20:1. Thirty one early career programs are offered, including study in Architecture, Aviation, Biochemistry, and Computer Science. Notable Alumni include numerous NFL players.

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Northeast Mississippi Community College

 1/527.98%Booneville, MS

Northeast offers over 100 programs of study in day, evening, and online formats. The Division of Business and Engineering Technology offers diverse programs such as: Accounting Technology, Civil Engineering, Culinary Arts, Diesel Power, Surveying, and Precision Manufacturing. A Pre-Nursing (BSN) degree is offered as well a Nursing (ADN) degree.

Veteran Education Benefits are handled by the Veteran Student Services Office. All campus resources are located within a 5-minute walk of student housing, including: classrooms, labs, the student Union, and the Library. The college has administered more Job Physical Ability Skills Simulation assessments than any other community college in the state, making it one of the best colleges in Mississippi. Notable alumni include four NBA and two NFL players.

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Meridian Community College

 1/531.39%Meridian, MS

The main campus of Meridian Community College is located on 72-acres adjacent to the Mississippi State University Meridian Campus. A wide variety of programs are available from construction trade technology to medicine, law, and economics. Programs are offered through the Business, Emergency Services, Industrial Technology, Nursing, and Health Education Divisions.

The Student Success Center offers academic tutoring and academic support, while the Campus Life Program provides supplemental education and extracurricular activities for student organizations and special interest groups. The Golf program is the only Division I NJCAA program in the region, and twenty golfers from Meridian have received scholarships to 4-year schools in the last 10 years, making the school one of the best colleges in Mississippi.

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East Mississippi Community College

 1/533.4%Scooba, MS

East Mississippi Community College’s (EMCC) Main Campus is located in Scooba, and boasts a large athletics and training facility, as well as a 40,000 square foot Career-Technical Complex. These amenities make it popular among colleges in Mississippi. Workforce programs aim to train students in manufacturing skills, and EMCC partners with local businesses to enhance employment opportunities for students and graduates.

The school has hosted the annual Pine Grove Arts Festival for the last 50 years, celebrating choir, band, dance, and visual arts as well as a crawfish boil. The school’s Lions football team won the ’11, ’13, and ’14 NJCAA National Championships. Notable alumni include many NFL players.

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Holmes Community College

 1/523.19%Goodman, MS

The Goodman, MS Main Campus is home to most of the college administrative offices, and is the only campus location to offer student housing. Holmes Community College offers a fine arts center, performing arts spaces, and athletic facilities and is home to over 1,500 students. Workforce education courses are offered as well as eLearning programs. Career Training includes: Concrete Mixer Truck Driver Training, Electrical Lineman, Professional Truck Driver, and CAN Nursing Programs. These vocational programs make it popular among colleges in Mississippi.

Notable alumni include Trumaine Sykes, an NFL player. The Holmes Community College Indoor Drumline won first place in the 2016 Mississippi Indoor Associate State Championship.

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Hinds Community College

 1/514.76%Raymond, MS

Hinds Community College is the largest educational institution in Mississippi with over 32,000 students enrolled in the six-campus system, making it one of the best colleges in Mississippi. Career and Technical Students may receive nine credit hours tuition-free if their employers are not satisfied with their training.

The College works with local employers to help fill new positions, and has partnered with KLLM Richland academy to train truck drivers, as well as received a US Department of Labor grant to train new barge deckhands. A midnight welding class is also open on two campuses. Notable alumni include numerous NFL players, country music singer Faith Hill, and the current governor of Mississippi (Phil Bryant).

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If you’re thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in Mississippi, continuing reading to learn more about living in the Magnolia State.

From its coastal beaches to its Civil Rights chronicles, this state overflows with natural and historical appeal. Mississippi is home to 3 million people, residing in mostly rural areas. The state includes many agricultural sectors, controlled mostly by industrial farms.

While often ranked low among the states in income and health, Mississippi also offers the nation’s lowest cost of living. It has one of the lowest per capita income rates and comes in at eight percent below the national average for cost of living. The state is also known as the birthplace of blues music and holds the title of most religious state.

Popular destinations in Mississippi include the Natchez Trace Parkway, Vicksburg National Military Park and Cemetery and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The capital city of Jackson offers museums and the State Capitol, and is home to roughly half the schools in Mississippi. Packed with Civil Rights and Civil War history, the state offers a rich past for students to explore.

Mississippi’s geography divides it into five distinct regions. Each offers its own unique attractions and culture. The following is an overview of these areas.


  • Major Cities: Oxford, Tupelo, Corinth
  • Attractions: Birthplace of Elvis Presley, Home of William Faulkner, Shiloh National Military Park
  • Cost of Living: Tupelo
  • Popular Schools: University of Mississippi


  • Major Cities: Tunica, Yazoo City, Greenville
  • Attractions: Delta Blues Museum, Mississippi Blues Trail, Great River Road State Park
  • Cost of Living: Greenville
  • Popular Schools: Mississippi Valley State University, Delta State University, Mississippi Delta Community College


  • Major Cities: Columbus, West Point, Philadelphia, Meridian
  • Attractions: Natchez Trace Parkway, Home of Tennessee Williams
  • Cost of Living: Columbus
  • Popular Schools: University of Southern Mississippi, William Carey University

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: Capital/River Region

  • Major Cities: Jackson, Vicksburg, Natchez
  • Attractions: State Capitol, Vicksburg National Military Park
  • Cost of Living: Jackson
  • Popular Schools: Jackson State University, University of Mississippi Medical Center


  • Major Cities: Gulfport, Pascagoula, Biloxi
  • Attractions: Beaches, Boating, Casino Row
  • Cost of Living: Gulfport
  • Popular Schools: University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Virginia College


In-state tuition rates can save students significantly. To qualify, students must establish residency in Mississippi. Specific requirements may vary by school, but the common denominator is to demonstrate intent to reside in Mississippi for more than schooling.


Mississippi determines the residency of a minor based on their guardian. The residence of a person under 21 years of age is awarded the residence of his or her father, mother or legal guardian. If only one parent has custody, it is that parent’s residency status that is shared by the minor. If a parent is a member of the faculty or staff of any institution in Mississippi, he or she may be classified as a resident for attendance at the school where the parent is employed. Because specific guidelines may vary by school, be sure to research residency requirements for any school that is considered.


Mississippi defines residency as the place an adult resides with the intention of remaining there indefinitely, or has plans to return there permanently if temporarily absent. Typically, schools require a minimum of 12-month residency in the state prior to admission for in-state residency and tuition to be granted.
The state makes the following exceptions/rules for adult residency:

  • A married person may claim the residence status of his or her spouse.
  • Members of the United States Armed Forces stationed in Mississippi, as well as their spouses and children, may be classified as residents.

Additional Resources for Mississippi College Students

Financial Resources

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State Links and Resources