November 13, 2010 9:56:00 PM
Do you remember the fable about the young man who had heard all his life about a magnificent house with golden windows? Finally he set out on a search to find it. It became an obsession and consumed many years of his life. Discouraged and dejected, he turned homeward. As he approached his home from the west, he looked up and beheld his own house with the afternoon sun shining on golden windows. The treasure had been in his own back yard all the time!
May I suggest the we who live in Columbus are somewhat like that young man? We, too, have a treasure in our own backyard, but sometimes we don''t really see it. Some of you, especially alumni, have probably already guessed that I am talking about Mississippi University for Women.
I go back a long was with the W. As a child I played on its campus, even trespassing in the dormitories in order to slide down the huge spiral fire escapes, giant metal slides encased in cylinders attached to the buildings'' exterior walls. I attended the W, got two degrees there. Through the years I realized that my education equipped me to fit into nearly any milieu, in the workplace or in social situations. When our children were young, two of them attended Demonstration School. All of them took advantage of the splendid Lyceum programs that brought world class performers to the stage at Whitfield.
Back in those days the little girls "dressed up" (also the adults). They even wore little white gloves! The programs were usually on Tuesday evenings, and some teachers would limit homework so that the children could attend. This early experience with the arts ignited enthusiasms that survive today. Our daughters had dance recitals and attended plays on that stage. They had winter practice for the swim team in the W pool.
MUW brings historical luster to this area as the first public college for women in the entire nation. It also provides a strong economic boost to our city. I don''t know how many dollars are circulated here because of the W, but it has to be significant.
By the numbers
MUW is doing something right. Head count this fall is 2,587, an increase of 4.48 percent over last year. Full time enrollment increased 6 percent. Seventy-seven counties are represented, 22 other states and 17 other countries.
ACT average score is 21.96. Full time degrees awarded in 2010 were 573, up 13 percent. Faculty-student ratio is 13/1. Graduates in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Associate of Science in Nursing programs have a 99.4 percent success rate on the National Licensure Examination.
For a small university, MUW has been well-ranked by a number of rating agencies. US News and World Report''s 2011 guide, "America''s Best Colleges," placed it in the top tier of Best Regional Universities and as the highest ranked public school from Mississippi in the Southern category. It is also highly-ranked by Washington Monthly, Consumers Digest and Kiplinger''s Personal Finance magazines. It is a bargain.
That''s the good news. Nevertheless, there is a problem. A big one. In tough economic times, MUW faces yet another cut in state allocations. It needs to keep, or even increase, enrollment in order to qualify for state funds which are allocated accordingly.
The need for scholarships for qualifying students is critical. Alumni are aware of this and are primed to respond. But, considering all that the W means to the community -- our "golden windows," our local treasure -- I hope many others will not only recognize its value, but will be moved to donate scholarship money in order to preserve and enhance that value. To do so would help the city, help the W, help the scholarship recipient, and help the donor. You will feel very good about yourself. I promise you.
Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.