September 10, 2013 9:56:12 AM
A record number of first-time freshmen are enrolled at Mississippi State University for the fall 2013 semester.
First-time enrollment reached 3,156 students, MSU announced in a release Monday, climbing about 10 percent from last year's 2,894 students. This year's freshman class also sports the highest average ACT score recorded by the university: 23.94.
Exactly 20,161 students are enrolled at the university this semester. MSU's agriculture and life sciences colleges saw growth this semester -- 10.87 percent and 5.54 percent, respectively -- while graduate school enrollment declined.
"I'm excited that we begin the fall 2013 semester with a record freshman enrollment and the highest average ACT scores in the university's history," President Mark Keenum said in the release. "The record number of freshmen enrolled reflects the growing realization that MSU offers students and their families the highest return on investment in Mississippi higher education and that a degree from MSU affords our graduates the highest average starting salaries in Mississippi.
"The decision of the federal government to systematically reduce available federal research funding also directly reduces the number of graduate assistantship opportunities," he added in the release. "Despite those challenges, MSU remains Mississippi's premier research university and continues to serve the needs of our state and nation."
State selected for NSA Cyber ops program
MSU was recently selected by the National Security Agency as one of four new schools participating in its National Centers of Academics Excellence in Cyber Operations Programs.
The university, which joins the ranks of the Air Force Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University and Auburn University, received the certification after a two-year application process by computer sciences and engineering faculty members.
Designations are for five years, a release states.
"Cyber skills are increasingly important in national defense, but it's even more important to operate as responsible citizens in the use of such skills," said Steven LaFountain, a NSA technical leader, in a release.
"MSU is among a relatively elite group of schools helping the nation meet its need for highly skilled cyber warriors," added David Dampier, a MSU computer science and engineering professor, in the release. "This certification further enables us to teach skills that are used by federal agencies engaged in cyber war - giving Mississippi State students an added edge when competing for these jobs."
The MSU faculty members who worked toward the designation include Cindy Bethel, Wesley McGrew, Mahalingam Ramkumar, Ed Swan, Byron Williams, Sherif Abdelwahed, Pan Li, Tommy Morris, Robert Reese and Dampier.
MSU's cyber security capabilities include three dedicated research centers: the Center for Computer Security Research, the National Forensics Training Center and the Critical Infrastructure Protection Center, the release states.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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